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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - More on the Indiana Dunes Pavilion improvement project

Updating a now long list of earlier ILB posts on the Indiana Dunes State Park and particularly the Pavilion project, here is an April 7th story from the NWI Times headed "Indiana Dunes State Park named one of nation's best," and a Gary Post-Tribune story, also from April 7th, headed "Dunes gets spot on national top 10 parks list."

On the same day, however, the NWI Times reported "Save the Dunes opposes pavilion, expansion project." Some quotes:

MICHIGAN CITY | Save the Dunes announced Tuesday its opposition to the Indiana Dunes State Park pavilion and expansion project and calls for the halt the project to gather more public input.

Members of Save the Dunes, an environmental group dedicated to preserving the Indiana Dunes, attended Monday's open house held by the DNR and Pavilion Partners LLC, and said it was disappointed with the lack of authentic stakeholder engagement at the meeting.

The group said it believes the DNR and Pavilion Partners LLC have missed an opportunity to involve the public in the re-imagining of the beachfront structure.

Save the Dunes said it opposes the project due to what it says is a lack of transparency and stakeholder input. It asks the DNR and Pavilion Partners stop the project and set meetings to discuss details rather than rushing through a project "that clearly does not have broad public support at this time. * * *

The organization said the DNR should have held public meetings months ago, after receiving proposals and before signing a contract. It said the open house was crowded and there was no opportunity for meaningful conversation. Save the Dunes believes this has been a flawed process and has resulted in a flawed plan.

"I think it was clear looking at the crowd that was there last night they haven't achieved as much public input as they need and that's really all we're asking to do is to slow down," Barker said.

Barker said they are concerned about design of the banquet center, which is being built next to the pavilion, and also want to know more about green building aspects, light pollution and the prevention of bird collisions. She said the group is also concerned with the type of activities that may occur once the banquet center is built next to the pavilion and whether people will be "running up and down the dunes and causing erosion."

"We really want to be a part of a dialog because it's so much more than just a building," she said. "The public has so much interest in this property."

The story includes a copy of the only photo the ILB has seen of the proposed banquet center, intended to adjoin the historic pavilion.

A long April 3rd story in the Chicago Tribune headed "Funding, experience handcuffed other pavilion bidder," reports:

While state officials with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources said 18 groups asked for the specs on the pavilion renovation, only two – Dunes Pavilion Renaissance and Pavilion Partners, LLC – turned in proposals. With plans to build an adjacent banquet and conference facility, Pavilion Partners won the project.

"The one thing that really stuck out in my mind was that Mr. (Chuck) Williams had done this before with a historic building in Valparaiso," said Dan Bortner, director of the division of parks and reservoirs with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, referring to the Valparaiso businessman who is one of the key players in Pavilion Partners.

This Apil 6th Tribune story is headed "Dunes pavilion plan gets public viewing." A quote:
"My main concern is the lack of transparency with this," Desi Robertson said, holding a petition against the banquet facility. "The fact that none of us knew this was coming is outrageous."

Though she supports plans to renovate the pavilion, she called the planned 30,000-square-foot banquet and conference center planned adjacent to and east of the pavilion a "big, shiny eyesore."

"I think the dunes are pretty as they are," she said, adding the structure's glass could confuse migrating birds, and it's being built on public space. "It shouldn't be for private profit."

The Porter County chapter of the Izaak Walton League has raised similar concerns about opening a public beach up for private profit.

In a media briefing before the open house, representatives from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Pavilion Partners LLC, which is handling the project, answered questions about the perceived secrecy around the plans and said they hoped the event would educate the public about the planned structure.

Renovation work on the interior of the pavilion started in February. * * *

The DNR has similar public-private partnerships for marinas at its reservoirs and for hotels at two state parks, Bortner said, adding 70 percent of the department's budget comes from user fees, with the remainder from the legislature, and the state is always looking for ways to increase revenue and decrease its reliance on state funds.

Ellen Adams, of Jackson Township, was trying to fight the crowd to get to display tables and have her questions answered.

"I'm concerned about why it was so secretive and the impact it's going to have on the beach," she said. She also was concerned about access to the park in heavy traffic when events are held at the banquet facility. "It's hard enough in the summer to get in."

An April 10th Tribune story is headed "2nd Dunes pavilion meeting Wednesday."

[More] The Chesterton Tribune (Chesterton is "The Gateway to the Dunes" and the ILB's home town) has an April 10th story announcing "DNR sets public meeting on Dunes State Park pavilion project Wednesday, April 15 at Chesterton Middle School." The story includes links to earlier Chesterton Tribune news stories. See especially these April 7th stories from Luke Nevers, which are the most probing the ILB has seen so far. (This is the second of them.)

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 12, 2015 02:14 PM
Posted to Environment | Indiana Government