Volunteer group proves invaluable to state park, national lakeshore
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent September 22, 2012 6:24PM
Brad Bumgardner, interpretive naturalist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, (far right) talks with visitors about improvement projects in the main picnic area as they take a hayride tour during a 30th Anniversary celebration of Friends of the Dunes at the Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton, Ind. Saturday September 22, 2012. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
For more on Friends of Indiana Dunes, go to www.friendsof
Updated: October 24, 2012 6:50AM
CHESTERTON — The work Friends of Indiana Dunes have done over the last 30 years for the state and national parks has been invaluable.
Just ask Brad Bumgardner, a naturalist with the Indiana Dunes State Park, who said the group serving the local parks is one of the oldest and largest in the state.
The organization offers the State Park volunteers and cash donations, totaling more than $10,000 in a year; both are equally important, Bumgardner said.
“They have an ability as a non-profit to fund things the state would never fund,” he said, adding that includes a telescope, an iPod full of birdcalls, and refreshments for park events, which the park can’t pay for. “It’s hard to pinpoint an event in the State Park that didn’t have the Friends’ influence.”
On Saturday, the Wilson Shelter at the State Park was full of friends of the Friends, who came out to celebrate the group’s 30th anniversary. The musical group Save the Tunes provided live entertainment around a fire to ward off the chill, and an assortment of other agencies set up informational booths.
Zella Olson, president of the Friends, joined when the group first got started, after she started volunteering at Chellberg Farm in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
“It was originally started to do the festivals at Bailly Homestead and Chellberg Farm,” she said, adding the Friends incorporated in 1986, the same year it expanded its mission to include the State Park.
In addition to providing volunteers for events at the two parks, Friends also raises money for educational and restoration efforts. Donations have gone for the Dunes Learning Center in the Dunes National Lakeshore, as well as a seed harvester there.
One of the Friends’ goals now is bringing more young people into the mix for projects such as beach cleanup and the like, Olson said. Toward that end, students from the National Honor Society at Michigan City High School and the International Baccalaureate program at Chesterton High School helped with the celebration.
They included Kaley Brown, a junior at Chesterton, who learned how to make beach glass jewelry and then was charged with teaching the craft to children who stopped by the event.
“I just love volunteering and helping out any way that I can,” she said, “and I got to learn something and help other people learn.”