Public has input into river plan through National Lakeshore
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent June 10, 2014 8:38PM
Updated: July 12, 2014 6:18AM
CHESTERTON — More than 50 people gathered Tuesday at the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center to share their thoughts on the future of the branch of the Little Calumet River that flows through the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
The public meeting was one in a series of steps as the National Park Service comes up with a management plan for the nearly nine miles of the river from the national park’s Heron Rookery west to the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk.
Recreational opportunities for the river have been considered before, but the park abandoned any plans in 1997 because there were too many impediments, said the park’s deputy superintendent, Garry Traynham. With new technology and a renewed interest in recreation, “we wanted to revisit that and take a look,” he said.
Any possible activity on or along the river — a list provided at the meeting covered bicycling to wildlife viewing — has to meet the park service’s standards for safety, protecting resources and providing recreation, park officials said.
“This is a very important part of the process,” said Cherie LeBlanc Fisher, a social scientist with the U.S. Forest Service. “The public has an interest in what happens at the National Lakeshore.”
The next steps are a draft of alternatives for using the river as well as an environmental assessment of those options, Fisher said. Those steps, also open for public comment, should be completed in the fall.
The park service will develop a response to the public feedback and then a final report.
“Doing nothing is always an option,” said Gia Wagner, natural resources branch chief at the lakeshore for the park service, adding that options range from that “to what we call a Cadillac version, with full-blown visitor access, and it’s usually some alternative between the two (extremes) that meets all of the objectives.”
More on the use management plan for the east branch of the Little Calumet River can be found starting Wednesday at parkplanning.nps.gov/indu