Indiana Dunes
A Signature of Time and Eternity:
The Administrative History of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana
NPS Logo


To my mind, this is a very important gain for conservation because it was won in spite of tremendous pressure from industrial groups and local interests. The loss of this proposal would have had its influence on many areas now under consideration and conservation would have suffered a severe setback.

Indiana Dunes Project Keyman Allen T. Edmunds, November 9, 1966, following President Johnson's signing of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore bill. [1]

Lyndon Johnson's Program

By the end of 1964, the Roush bill effectively died, bottled up in the House Interior committee. With the convening of the 89th Congress, Roush reintroduced the bill in early 1965 and it received the designation H.R. 51. Senator Paul Douglas and Representative Charles Halleck continued their port versus park political machinations. For his part, Douglas worked for the Senate to approve the Public Works Omnibus Bill of 1965 which included a stipulation providing that no funds be appropriated for Burns Ditch Harbor until Congress designated the Indiana Dunes a national lakeshore. When the bill reached the House, Halleck not only saw that the measure was deleted, but he inserted a clause forbidding any linkage between port and park. In conference committee, Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana worked for a compromise. In the final bill, Douglas prevailed when Congress approved the Burns Waterway Harbor (Port of Indiana), but appropriations could only come with the authorization of an Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore by the adjournment of the 89th Congress in late 1966. [2]

From his years of experience in Congress, President Lyndon B. Johnson knew the history of the port versus park battle well. He adopted his predecessor's stand on the dunes, the so-called "Kennedy Compromise," without pause. In his February 8, 1965, State of the Union speech, President Johnson declared that the number of parks, seashores, and recreational areas did not satisfy the needs of an expanding population. Johnson proposed that maximum appropriations from the newly implemented Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) be utilized to make the 1960s a "Parks-for-America" decade. He listed twelve proposed national park areas he intended to target LWCF monies to acquire. Two Great Lakes units were on the list: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan, and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. [3]

Several factors combined to facilitate a more advantageous outlook for the park bill. In concert with the President's Great Society program was the growing acceptance of urban parks and the success of the outdoor recreation movement. President Johnson established the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation within the Department of the Interior and two presidential recreation commissions. Also critical to the dunes park movement was the growing concern to protect scarce coastal areas for public use. [4]

In the Senate, hearings on S. 360 resulted in a favorable report by the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee. Debate centered on the inclusion of noncontiguous marshy areas which the minority view saw as unrelated geographically and better suited to development. The dissenters added:

Our further concern is that the patchwork taking authorized by this bill may later be used as a precedent to take the best part of a landowner's holdings and leave him with only the scraps. It is our belief that the many problems of administration that are present without the inclusion of these noncontiguous tracts are simply compounded by their inclusion, and this is amplified by the fact that they are located many miles from the main body of the national lakeshore. The map of this proposed national lakeshore has the appearance of a crazy quilt. [5]

In accordance with the majority view, the Senate subsequently approved on S. 360 on June 21, 1965.

Charles A. Halleck, leader of the opposition, testified during the October 2 hearings at Valparaiso University in Indiana. He criticized the number of dunes park bills, declaring it was difficult to remember from bill to bill what was included and what was excluded from the lakeshore.* Chairman Ralph J. Rivers limited discussion to consideration of H.R. 51 and S. 360. [6] Congressman J. Edward Roush, sponsor of H.R. 51, reiterated the critical need for recreational areas by saying while there may never be a local consensus, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was certainly in the national interest. Roush lauded Lyndon Johnson's recent signing of the Assateague Island National Seashore bill and adopted the President's own words as applicable to the dunes: "If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than with sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them with a glimpse of the world as God really made it, not just as it looked when we got through with it." [7]

*The list of bills follow: H.R. 51 introduced by J. Edward Roush of Indiana; H.R. 4412 introduced by Roman C. Pucinski of Illinois; H.R. 4789 introduced by Barratt O'Hara of Illinois; H.R. 3833 introduced by Morris K. Udall of Arizona; and H.R. 6985 introduced by John P. Saylor of Pennsylvania. (H.R. 51, 3833, and 4789 were effectively the same). In addition the committee considered S. 360 as passed by the Senate in June.

Department of the Interior's Proposal

In early 1966, the Department of the Interior produced an updated feasibility proposal to Congress on Indiana Dunes. Ten thousand copies were printed for the Department, made possible through the use of private funds. The Izaak Walton League ordered 7,000 copies direct from the printer for its own distribution. [8] Needless to say, Indiana, Washington, D.C., and other areas were saturated with the positive report.

The Department saw a real need for the lakeshore with six and a half million people within a fifty-mile radius and nine and a half million people with a one hundred-mile radius. Within fifteen years, the dunes region population would approach nearly twelve million people. The report stated:

Located adjacent to Gary, Indiana, and only 35 miles from Chicago on the south shore of Lake Michigan, the proposed lakeshore presents a rare opportunity to improve the environment of millions of crowded city dwellers and to insure the enjoyment of this unusual lakeshore for future generations... Nowhere on the Great Lakes is the need for additinal shoreline recreation greater. It is expected that these people with increased population, higher income and more leisure—will demand more in the future in the way of recreation opportunities. [9]

The proposal predicted an annual visitation of 1.2 million visitors to a developed park. By 1980, visitation could surpass two million. There was no time to waste in the effort to preserve the remaining dunes. The report continued:

Few other places on the Great Lakes exhibit a greater need for additional recreation sites than the vast Chicago metropolitan area. This remaining portion (Indiana Dunes) of Lake Michigan shoreline represents a potential major contribution towards the fulfillment of these recreational needs. Its early acquisition for park use would be in the best interest of public recreation.

Few spots on the Great Lakes have factors more favorably aligned for combined recreational use of the water, the lakeshore and the hinterland than the area of the proposed National Lakeshore.

Because of the low latitude and shallow depth, the waters along the Indiana shoreline are the warmest in Lake Michigan, rising above 60 degrees during the latter part of June and staying above that point until late September. Wide, gently sloping beaches of clean, light colored and fine grained sand are free of debris. This combination provides ideal conditions for pleasant swimming, strolling barefoot along the waterline, sunbathing, beachcombing or just relaxation in the refreshing breezes.

The Indiana Dunes region is an unusual complex of exceptional sand dunes, numerous marshes, swamps and bogs, white sand beaches, and widely diversified flora and fauna—a natural, scientific and scenic asset so diverse that it is difficult to equal anywhere in the country. [10]

The proposal divided the dunes into three zones—shoreline, inland, and wetland—and comprised twelve units totaling 8,894 acres. Within the zones were 950 improved properties (590 were permanent residences, 240 summer homes, 63 commercial installations, and 100 other residences built since 1961). The State of Indiana owned one-quarter of the land; the remainder was in private hands, including Inland, Bethlehem, and National Steel. The estimated acquisition price tag was set at $23 million, with boundaries carefully drawn in order not to hinder other developments. [11]

The 1966 report clearly defined the home ownership policy for the proposed park. Owners of a single-family home could retain ownership and as much as three acres of land indefinitely provided they satisfied two criteria: the home must have been built before October 21, 1963, and homeowners must adhere to local zoning laws approved by the Secretary of the Interior within one year of the lakeshore's enactment. All homeowners willing to sell could receive an independent appraisal and a fair market price. The property owner could then reserve a right of non-commercial use and occupancy for periods of up to twenty-five years. The Secretary of the Interior would be empowered to secure easements to allow public access to beaches. Even outside the lakeshore boundaries, the Secretary could obtain (but not through condemnation) easements to ensure visitor access to the Little Calumet River. [12]

The report included the following six recommendations for development and land use:

The Lakeshore Dunes Unit in its entirety be considered an inviolate natural area to be left free of any intrusions other than trails and such ungraded and unpaved maintenance roads as may be needed.

The West Beach Unit be used for intensive recreation pursuits such as swimming, sunbathing, picnicking and camping.

Camping, picnicking, and minor swimming areas be provided at the east end of Beverly Shores near Michigan City in the East Beach Unit.

The appropriate portions of the Bailly Homestead Unit, the Burns Bog Unit and the Inland Dunes Unit be devoted to hiking, picnicking, camping, horseback riding, nature study and any other uses that appear compatible with wise use of the Unit.

...wetland areas (Billington Lake, Mud Lake, Little Calumet River, Blue Heron, and the Pinhook Bog Units) be used for hiking, nature study, and wildlife sanctuaries.

To achieve consistency in overall planning, development, operation and conservation of the National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes State Park, the National Park Service work in close cooperation with the State of Indiana, and that, with the concurrence of the State of Indiana, the Indiana Dunes State Park be included as part of the National Lakeshore. [13]

In conclusion, the Department's 1966 report acknowledged that the proposed National Lakeshore met the criteria for a "National Recreation Area" as defined by the President's Recreation Advisory Council.* [14] The report left no doubt about the Department of the Interior's enthusiastic endorsement of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

*The definition of a national recreation area is "a spacious area, developed for high carrying capacity, offering significant recreation opportunities in answer to high priority needs, and conveniently located to urban areas in an area requiring Federal involvement."

A Legislative Miracle

When House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee hearings resumed in April 1966, the National Park Service was confident that finally the dunes bill would be reported out of committee. Of notable importance, the State of Indiana's position had mellowed. It sought to capitalize on the proposed park out of its own self-interest. While Indiana welcomed the Federal Government acquiring lands immediately bordering on the Dunes State Park, the State remained diametrically opposed to donating its parkland. Rather, it wished to lease the new Federal areas and thereby forego National Park Service management. The State frowned upon acquisition of noncontiguous areas, such as the Inland Steel property, as an attempt to "strangle" the harbor and other industrial development. [15]

The slow trend in acceptance for the park also gained momentum in 1966 because of the approaching Congressional elections. While the port versus park issue had always split along partisan lines, this dichotomy was especially acute in 1966. The proposed Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was perceived as a "Democratic" program. Senator Douglas himself was facing a tough re-election campaign against Republican challenger Charles Percy. United in favor of the park by the top Democrat in the White House, Indiana's five Democratic representatives used their influence to promote the park bill as did Democratic Governor Roger Branigan, and Democratic Senators Vance Hartke and Birch Bayh. With the opening of the second session of the 89th Congress, Senator Paul Douglas personally called on members of the House Interior committee to enlist their support. These collective efforts bore fruit. The favorable committee report came in July 1966. [16]

Park opponents engineered a crafty last-minute plan to kill the bill by inserting the Ogden Dunes beach into the boundaries of the proposed park. They were convinced that Save the Dunes Council members were interested in protecting the private beaches of their communities. Focusing on Ogden Dunes where Dorothy Buell was a resident, opponents persuaded Charles Halleck to get the beach included and then gloated to reporters that the bill was "dead" because the Council would find it "unacceptable." It was a classic example of underestimating a foe. According to Herbert Read:

We had a Save the Dunes Council Board meeting and unanimously passed a resolution in support of including not only the Ogden Dunes beach, but all the remaining privately owned beaches as well. Our opponents were confounded again and Charlie Halleck was in trouble with a number of his Republican friends who really didn't want the beach in. Oh, how we laughed at that episode. To this day some of our old enemies can't believe that our publicly stated objective was our actual objective. [17]

Help getting the bill out of the House Rules Committee and scheduled for a vote came from the White House. Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey called committee members and Speaker of the House John McCormack to urge progress. President Lyndon B. Johnson, aware that polls indicated Douglas was trailing Percy, also called Speaker McCormack and reiterated his firm support for the park bill. Save the Dunes Council members joined with professional lobbyists representing labor, civil rights, and other liberal causes to promote the national lakeshore to each member of Congress.

On October 11, 1966, the park bill went before the Committee of the Whole. Throughout the afternoon and again the following morning, Charles Halleck, Joe Skubitz (Republican-Kansas), and Rogers C. B. Morton (Republican-Maryland) led a concentrated attack against H.R. 51. [18] In its defense, Interior Committee Chairman Wayne Aspinall declared:

Exhaustive hearings were held by the National Parks and Recreation Subcommittee both in the field and in Washington. Every conceivable argument for and against the proposal was heard. I can honestly say no other park proposal has been given more intense consideration in this session of Congress than has been given H.R. 51. [19]

Speaker John McCormack, polling for votes on the floor, discovered that the measure would fail if it came to a vote. Entire delegations were absent, back in their districts campaigning. In a cunning political move, McCormack proposed to House Minority Leader Charles Halleck that the park bill be rescheduled for later in the week in order that more important business be discussed. Believing that even more Democrats would be absent, thereby ensuring a humiliating defeat for the bill, Halleck readily agreed. The Indiana Dunes vote was postponed until Friday, October 14.

The brilliance of McCormack's move soon became apparent. One of the Great Society's pivotal programs was up for a vote on the same day. Ironically, Senator Paul Douglas' other bill, the Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act (or Model Cities Act) was scheduled for consideration. The White House had used every avenue to ensure that all Democrats would be in attendance. [20] So, too, had the conservationists who launched a massive telegram drive. According to Save the Dunes Council member and President of the Indiana Division of the Izaak Walton League Thomas E. Dustin, "If there is anything we could have done besides hiring a sky-writer to spell out "save the dunes" over the Capitol building, I don't know what it could be." [21]

The proposed Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore reaped the benefits of the shrewd, top-level political manuevering. On October 14, 1966, a legislative miracle occurred when the House of Representatives passed H.R. 51 with an impressive 204-141 vote. On October 18, the conference committee sent the bill back to the Senate which promptly concurred with the House amendments. Another irony involved the simultaneous approval of H.R. 50, which provided for an appropriation for Burns Harbor. The port versus park struggle, almost nine years in the making, had come to a draw.

The park bill, authorizing $28 million for 8,100 acres, went to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for President Johnson's signature. Indiana Dunes was not to become the first National Lakeshore, however, as President Johnson signed the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan, bill on October 15. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore came into being on November 5, 1966, with the approval of Public Law 89-761. [22] Signed into law at the LBJ Ranch in the Texas hill country, the President heralded the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Act as a great victory for the United States. A statement from the President, released by the Office of the White House Press Secretary from San Antonio, read:

The bill to establish the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has been 50 years in the making. In 1916, the National Park Service first cited the need to preserve for public use the strip of uninhabited, tree-covered dunes, and white sandy beaches stretching along the south shore of Lake Michigan from East Chicago to Michigan City.

Over the years many bills were introduced in the Congress. But it took the foresight and determination of the 89th Congress—and the tireless work of Senator Paul Douglas—to save the last remaining undeveloped portion of this lakeshore area. Thirteen miles of dunes and shoreline will be preserved for public use and enjoyment.

Its beaches and woodlands will provide a haven for the bird lover, the beachcomber, the botanist, the hiker, the camper, and the swimmer.

Within a 100-mile radius of the Indiana Dunes there are 9-1/2 million people crowded into one of the greatest industrial areas of our country. For these people, as well as for millions of other visitors, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore offer[s] ideal recreational opportunities. Here man can find solace and relief from the pressures of the industrial world.

The Members of Congress who have worked with dedication for so many years toward enactment of this bill deserve great credit. In addition to Senator Douglas, I particularly commend the diligence of Senators Hartke, and Bayh, and Representatives Roush, Madden, and Udall.

During the Administration more than 980,000 acres in 24 States have been added to the National Park System by the Congress. Twenty major conservation measures were passed by the 89th Congress. None gives me greater satisfaction than this bill to preserve the Indiana Dunes.

The great scenic and scientific attractions of the Dunes moved poet Carl Sandburg to say "the Indiana Dunes are to the Midwest what the Grand Canyon is to Arizona and Yosemite is to California."

Our entire country is made richer by this Act I have signed today. [23]

Among park proponents, the victory was tempered by the defeat of Senator Paul H. Douglas by Charles Percy three days later in the general election. Even before the President signed the legislation, the Northeast Regional Office in Philadelphia planned for the first meeting of the Indiana Dunes Master Plan team for mid-November. Northeast Region Project Keyman for Indiana Dunes was none other than Allen T. Edmunds who organized the multidisciplinary master plan team. [24] The team professionals included: John Wright and Richard Ketchum, Office of Lands and Water Rights, both from the Washington Planning and Service Center; Frank Barnes, Historian and Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services, and Elmer C. Martinson, Park Planner and Chief of Federal Agency Assistance, both from the Northeast Regional Office; John J. Longworth, Civil Engineer, Development Planning and Project Control, Philadelphia Planning and Service Center (PPSC); and David Turello, Park Planner, Carl P. Schreiber, Resource Manager, Robert W. Carpenter, Naturalist, and Jeanne A. Fistere, Landscape Architect, all from the Office of Resource Planning, PPSC.

David Turello served as team captain. From November 13 to 20, 1966, the team made an initial survey of the new park, gathered data, and contacted local and state officials to learn of their myriad array of development plans. Turello's team encountered strong opposition to the national lakeshore. Turello recounted the paranoia and recommended a permanent Park Service presence be established as soon as possible:

Rumors are being circulated that the beaches in front of the excluded towns within the proposal will be overrun with Chicago negroes. Also, that the National Park Service is planning to fence off the towns from the beach. Individuals have been told that the Service will insist that swimming will be restricted to designated areas and the residents of Beverly Shores, Ogden Dunes and Dune Acres will have to drive or walk to these designated beaches.

Of course, many are sure we will physically eject everyone who lives within the proposal out of their homes, etc.

In view of all the activity and plotting now underway or proposed which will have tremendous effect on planning and operation of the Lakeshore, we urge that a National Park Service representative be assigned to the area as soon as possible. Such a representative on the site could allay many of the local day-to-day fears and act as a liason with the various planning elements in the area. [25]

While Park Service officials in Philadelphia sympathized with the need for an established area presence, there were no operating funds for Indiana Dunes and no authorized Full Time Equivalency (FTE)* immediately available. Still, Allen Edmunds recommended that a National Park Service employee be detailed to Indiana Dunes "at the earliest opportunity." [26]

*Full Time Equivalency is the authority to hire one person for one year.

During this interim period, the Save the Dunes Council acted in response to plans by the Indiana Highway Department to widen U.S. Highway 12 into a four-lane expressway, in direct conflict with conservationists' plans to make Highway 12 a scenic parkway. The Council succeeded in blocking the move by persuading several area residents to donate parcels in the right-of-way to the new Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. [27] The Council also advocated the prompt establishment of a land acquisition office from which to negotiate land transactions as well as to explain the terms of the bill. Herbert P. Read, the Council's engineering chairman, called for such an office to counter the "ugly untruths" maliciously spread by park opponents. Read believed only a vigorous land acquisition program aimed at a wide cross-section of the populated Inland Zone (including Tremont, Furnessville, Porter, and the Bailly Homestead) could blunt the opponents' misinformation campaign. The public needed positive signs that the park was indeed a reality, Read reasoned, and this could only be done by moving forward with land acquisition. By acquiring strategically located parcels, the move would also short-circuit any move by Charles Halleck to introduce legislation reducing the size of the lakeshore. [28]

A response to the Save the Dunes Council came from the Washington Office in mid-December 1966 from Assistant Director Howard W. Baker. Baker stated that the land acquisition program would be targeted toward preserving the dunes and providing public recreational opportunities. Undeveloped lands had first priority, especially tracts which provided access to Lake Michigan. The scope of the program, Baker advised, depended upon Congress and the availability of funds. [29]

Wishing to alleviate problems through suggesting positive National Park Service actions, Senator Paul Douglas offered his own advice. Before he left office, Douglas wrote to Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall to express his concerns which mirrored those of the Save the Dunes Council. In addition, Douglas called for the immediate purchase of the Inland Steel tract. Douglas declared: "Whatever it costs, this unit will prove one of the most extraordinary valuable rescues of open land ever achieved in a metropolitan area." To reduce the number of Congressional inquiries and complaints, the program should also accommodate hardship cases, especially the elderly and low income homeowners. Further, Douglas advised, members of the Secretary's Indiana Dunes Advisory Commission provided for in the authorizing act should be recommended by the Save the Dunes Council. [30]

With all of the advice being offered from different quarters, chances of reaching a consensus for the future development of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore appeared as dim as before the park's authorization. With the euphoria of 1966 fading, few in the National Park Service could realize that the battle of the dunes had only just begun.

<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 07-Oct-2003