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Experts like recreational possibilities for Little Cal

Paddlers shown 2010 East Branch Little Calumet River. east Indian249 near Bass Pro Shops Portage. | NWIPA photo

Paddlers shown in 2010 on the East Branch of the Little Calumet River. east of Indiana 249, near Bass Pro Shops in Portage. | NWIPA photo

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More on the use management plan for the east branch of the Little Calumet River can be found at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/indu.

Updated: July 17, 2014 6:03AM



CHESTERTON — What should an almost 9-mile stretch of the Little Calumet River within the boundaries of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore be?

That’s what officials with the park and the National Park Service want to know as they come up with a use management plan for the east branch of the river.

Folks who attended a June 9 meeting about the river said their hopes for the plan, with an environmental assessment on the impact of any activities, include greater recreational opportunities, as well as connectivity with other trails and waterways in the region.

“That’s something we’re going to look at going forward,” said Charles Morris, an environmental protection specialist with the lakeshore.

The potential plans for the Little Calumet mirror the Marquette Greenway poster plan, which calls for a connecting trail from New Buffalo, Mich., to Chicago, said Mitch Barloga, transportation planning manager for the Northern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, and head of NIRPC’s Ped, Pedal and Paddle Committee.

He was involved in a meeting between NIRPC and the lakeshore in advance of the open house for the Little Calumet plan.

“They’re cognizant of a parallel effort here,” he said, adding any plans for the river face the same complexities toward connectivity as the pathway does.

For the river, those challenges include logjams that make portions of the waterway impassable, said Ken Stelter, vice president of the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association.

He sees a huge recreational potential for the Little Calumet, especially as his group works to make the region a destination for kayaks and canoes, which is why he wanted to share his thoughts with the park service.

“This stretch of the river is like a crown jewel. It’s absolutely perfect for paddlers. It’s wooded and scenic,” he said. “Despite the fact that it’s through an industrial corridor, it’s absolutely beautiful.”

Also interested in the river’s recreational potential is Jim Osborne, general manager at Bass Pro Shops in Portage, which has a vested interest in paddle sports and increased river access.

“Any time we can open up that access to the public is a plus,” he said, adding he came to the meeting to learn more about any plans for the river and their environmental impact. “We’re huge into conservation.”

Lee Botts, who has long been committed to environmental preservation in Northwest Indiana, said she sees improvement across the region, which also creates new opportunities for recreation.

The cleanup of the Grand Calumet River, she said, is “absolutely amazing.”

“To have the Little Calumet and the Grand Calumet both available and safe for the public to enjoy is a tremendous accomplishment for the region, and I think we should take advantage of it,” she said.



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