Indiana Dunes Becomes Indiana's First National Park
More than a century after Indiana's dunes were first considered for national park status, the state's national lakeshore is now officially a national park.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore just became Indiana Dunes National Park, as part of appropriations legislation signed into law by President Trump on Friday.
"We have successfully titled the first national park in our state. This action provides our shoreline with the recognition it deserves, and I hope further builds momentum to improve open and public access to all of our region's environmental wonders," U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, a Democrat representing Indiana's 1st District, said in a statement.
Bruce Rowe, public information officer for the Indiana Dunes, told the Indianapolis Star that the name change doesn't come with extra funding or protection for the area but will help raise the profile of the dunes, which attracted 3.6 million visitors last year.
"We're absolutely elated. We have this incredible natural resource that not that many people know about. This can get us some recognition for that natural resource," Rowe said to the Star.
The national park along 15 miles of Lake Michigan shore wraps around Indiana Dunes State Park and includes beaches, prairie, wetlands, forests, rivers and bogs. The namesake dunes reach nearly 200 feet above Lake Michigan, and hiking trails lead through some of the Midwest's most diverse plant and wildlife communities.
Efforts to make the area a national park date to 1916, the year the National Park Service was established. Stephen Mather, the first director of the NPS, held hearings in October 1916 to gauge interest on "Sand Dunes National Park."
The dunes state park was opened in 1926 and the national lakeshore in 1966. The lakeshore is now America's 61st national park.
A year ago, the Midwest gained another national park when Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis was officially renamed Gateway Arch National Park.