posttrib
SIMMERING 
Weather Updates

Mount Baldy to remain closed for 2014 season

Officials announced Thursday April 24 2014 thMt. Baldy Dunes National Laksehore will remaclosed for 2014 seasas scientists continues search for

Officials announced Thursday, April 24, 2014, that Mt. Baldy at the Dunes National Laksehore will remain closed for the 2014 season as scientists continues to search for the cause of holes in the sand. The latest one was found on March 18.

storyidforme: 65426332
tmspicid: 23402286
fileheaderid: 11423058

Learn more

For more information and to view the EPA’s Geophysical Survey Report, a Core Study, photos, video and graphics on the Mount Baldy research, visit the national lakeshore’s website at www.nps.gov/indu.

Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: May 26, 2014 6:29AM



MICHIGAN CITY — Mount Baldy will remain closed for another season, as officials with the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore said Thursday they’re still not sure what’s causing holes to form in the giant sand dune.

Despite the use of ground-penetrating radar and data gathering at two additional holes that have appeared since July, more research will be conducted this summer and may last until fall, officials said.

A 6-year-old boy from Illinois was buried in 11 feet of sand for more than 3½ hours on July 12, and a second, seemingly similar hole was found on the dune in the ensuing weeks. A third hole appeared March 18, according to park officials.

Much, but not all, of Mount Baldy was closed before the July 12 incident as the national park restored dune grass, and it has been completely closed since the child was trapped.

For public safety, the dune, its parking lot, trail and the beach in front of it will remain closed to all vehicular and pedestrian access while the investigation continues.

“Mount Baldy is one of the most visited sites in the national lakeshore, attracting thousands of visitors each year,” acting park Superintendent Garry Traynham said in a news release. “But the continued development of these holes in the dune surface pose a serious risk to the public. Our first obligation must be to the welfare of our visitors.”

Ground-penetrating radar studies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in August identified 66 anomalies beneath the dune’s surface, and at least six of those are metal, Bruce Rowe, the park’s public information officer, has said.

Analysis by scientists from the National Park Service, Indiana University and the Indiana Geological Survey has not yielded answers on how the holes form. The current hypothesis is that trees and brush or debris were buried by the movement of the dune in the late 1900s, according to a summary of the EPA investigation at www.nps.gov/indu.

It says the age of the materials and the wet conditions during the spring of 2013 may have forced the materials in Mount Baldy to become unstable, collapsing and creating openings.

The two additional holes and a number of depressions were found during the ongoing investigation. Scientists report that the holes are short-lived, remaining open for less than 24 hours before collapsing and filling in naturally with surrounding sand.

Scientists now are preparing for a more comprehensive investigation of Mount Baldy this summer. It will include mapping openings, depressions and anomalous features, the use of ground-penetrating radar and coring to develop a better understanding of the overall internal structure of the dune.

During the research work, the park’s resource managers will continue planting marram grass on portions of Mount Baldy where the native dune grass used to grow. The grass’s extensive root system holds sand in place and also may help prevent holes from opening on the dune’s surface.

All other beach access areas within the national lakeshore are open, and visitors are asked to stay on the established trails to prevent erosion and further damage.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.