Few clues found in study of Mount Baldy collapse
BY AMY LAVALLEY Post-Tribune correspondent February 7, 2014 5:28PM
Environmental Protetion Agency agents came to Mr. Baldy on the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore last year to look for possible reasons that part of the dune collapsed, trapping an 11-year-old boy. | Post-Tribune File Photo
Updated: February 8, 2014 2:03AM
MICHIGAN CITY — Initial review of a report by the Environmental Protection Agency on what lies beneath Mount Baldy — and what may have created a hole that nearly consumed a 6-year-old boy in July — is revealing few clues about the dune, located in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
“It showed that there were 66 anomalies that were found” beneath the dune’s surface, said Bruce Rowe, the park’s public information officer. Those could be holes, rocks or fence posts; at least six of the anomalies are metal. “For the other 60 or so, we don’t know what they are yet.”
The EPA conducted an assortment of tests, including ground-penetrating radar, on the 126-foot dune in August. Park staff reviewed the report on the tests last month, Rowe said, and is passing it along to the National Park Service’s Geologic Resources Division in Fort Collins, Colo., for further study.
He expects more information to be forthcoming later this month, after a conference call between park staff and representatives from geologic resources. He is unsure what the next step may be in determining what’s under the dune.
In the days following the July 12 incident in which Nathan Woessner, of Sterling, Ill., was buried in 11 feet of sand for more than 3½ hours, another, seemingly similar hole was found on Mount Baldy.
There had been some speculation that a buried tree may have shifted, creating the hole in which Nathan fell. Scientists have said photos of Mount Baldy from 1935 show trees in the spot where Nathan was found.
As investigators began their work over the summer, Rowe heard from two people who said they witnessed similar events, including one person who sank knee-high into the sand at Mount Baldy and another one on a private dune in southwest Michigan.
Still, nothing has occurred to the extent of what happened in July, even at other parks with shifting dunes.
Mount Baldy is shifting at a rate of 10 to 15 feet a year, Rowe has said, and much of it has been blocked off from hikers for the past few years to slow erosion and help the reestablishment of dune grass.
Mount Baldy remains closed indefinitely while the investigation continues.
“We really have no idea how long it will be until this investigation is complete,” Rowe said, adding scientists are dealing with something new. “It just sounds like it’s going to take some time.”