For Immediate Release: Jul 18, 2018
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Indiana Dunes Pavilion Revisions Trigger New Federal Review
Reduced Public Access and Outdoor Recreation Tie Prompt Park Service “Concern”
Washington, DC — The latest developer plan for restaurants and bars at the Indiana Dunes State Park Pavilion may conflict with federal law, according to National Park Service correspondence posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and Dunes Action. NPS is undertaking a new review that may result in further changes to, and delays for, this troubled and controversial project.
Since much of the Indiana Dunes State Park and its Pavilion was financed with grants from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, under terms of the LWCF, that property may not be converted to uses that do not support public outdoor recreation. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been working with a private company to “restore” the historic Indiana Dunes State Park Pavilion while also installing restaurants, bars, pubs, and other profit-generating facilities.
Following complaints from PEER and Dunes Action, the NPS found this redevelopment to be “non-compliant” with LWCF in 2015. NPS then tempered that conclusion in 2016, but after the groups made NPS aware of new updates to the plan, NPS renewed its concerns.
In a July 12, 2018 letter NPS Assistant Director Jeffrey Reinbold wrote that his agency “had not seen” these new plan updates but upon examination decided that they were different enough “to require a new review” and cited –
- The latest plan “no longer appears to be secondary and supportive of outdoor recreation”;
- Changes that are “problematic, such as the loss of public access throughout the building”, including “the lack of dedicated public recreation space on the rooftop”; and
- The “tilt toward more formal dining options” as opposed to food and refreshments for visitors to the state park and lakeshore.
“The new Pavilions plan revolves around enclosed bars, pubs, and ‘fine dining’ restaurants, lacking any connection to ‘outdoor recreation,’” stated PEER General Counsel Paula Dinerstein, noting that Indiana DNR had NPS approval but then allowed the developer to rewrite the plan without informing the Park Service. “It appears that Indiana DNR got caught trying to pull a fast one.”
If the project proceeds without NPS concurrence, the state must purchase outdoor recreational land of equivalent value to cure the violation, costing Indiana millions of dollars outside its current budget.
In addition to the new NPS review, the Porter County Prosecutor has appointed a Special Prosecutor to look into allegations from PEER and Dunes Action that construction that has already occurred on the Pavilion violated state historic preservation laws.
“The current plans turn the Pavilion into a tavern on the lake,” said Norman Hellmers of Dunes Action. “We’ve said all along that fine dining, fancy bars and rooftop pubs don’t support average beachgoers or campers.”