Climbers meet challenge of traipsing up dunes
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent June 12, 2014 11:50PM
Mark Newman, executive director of the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, runs up a dune at Indiana Dunes State Park on Thursday, June 12, 2014. The park, with local and state tourism agencies, announced the creation of the 3 Dune Challenge, where the goal is to hike up and down the state's three highest dunes. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 14, 2014 6:09AM
CHESTERTON — Jake Oakman, communications director for the Indiana Office of Tourism Department, admitted he was an amateur.
But Thursday, dressed in workout clothes, he was ready to make the most of his visit to Indiana Dunes State Park by taking on the 3 Dune Challenge, a 1.5-mile hike that includes climbing Mount Jackson, Mount Holden and Mount Tom, the three tallest dunes in the state.
“I’m going to try to, at least. We’ll see. I thought it was a great opportunity to be outdoors and see if I could do this,” he said, adding he’s been to the state park twice, but not to hike. “If I survive today, I’ll come back.
And so began the official kickoff of the 3 Dune Challenge, which encompasses Trails 4 and 8 and offers hikers, runners and extreme sports enthusiasts 552 vertical feet, much of it in the sand.
Indiana Dunes Tourism, as well as its partners, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Friends of Indiana Dunes, unveiled the challenge during a news conference.
“We’re rebranding something that’s existed the whole time here — Trail 8,” said Lorelei Weimer, executive director of Indiana Dunes Tourism.
The goal is to reach out to visitors who don’t think beyond the beach, to people who haven’t been to the park and want a challenge, to locals not familiar with what’s in their own back yards, and to extreme athletes who want a new challenge.
“This is the trail to do it,” Weimer said.
She met with officials from the state park, which is under the auspices of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, who liked the idea, and to Friends of Indiana Dunes, which offered the financing for signage, brochures and other marketing materials.
Those who complete the challenge can get four postcards and a sticker or decal for free at the park’s Nature Center.
“When people know about things, they want to care about them,” said Ginger Murphy, assistant director for stewardship for Indiana State Parks and Reservoirs, adding the challenge “dovetails nicely” with improvements made to the park over the past 10 years.
Friends of Indiana Dunes board chairwoman Zella Olson said her group provides financial and volunteer support for the state and national parks to enhance the experience of visitors. “We also want to protect and help restore some of the areas for future visitors of the park,” she said, adding the challenge will keep visitors on marked trails.
Mark Newman, executive director of the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, lauded the collaboration that made the challenge possible.
“The 3 Dune Challenge is one of those special, special things in our state that enhances Indiana as an outdoor destination,” he said.