Friends Group Launched To Support Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Dunes National Park Association is just the latest addition to the growing list of national park friends groups.

Having just launched Essential Friends, Celebrating Friends Groups in the National Parks, it seems only fitting to welcome a new friends group into the fold: Dunes National Park Association.

More and more, as federal dollars become even more precious, the work of national park friends groups is growing in leaps and bounds in terms of importance to their respective parks.

The Dunes National Park Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Indiana.

The Dunes National Park Association takes its name as homage to the National Dunes Park Association, the original organization formed in Chicago in 1917 to advocate for a national park on Indiana’s coast.

The mission of the DNPA is to support the protection, preservation, and promotion of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore by building a community dedicated to conserving the park for the inspiration, education, and enjoyment of current and future generations.

Private sector support for America’s national parks is a tradition as old as the parks themselves. Even before the establishment of the National Park Service (NPS) in 1916 as a bureau of the Department of the Interior, citizens were stepping forward to protect special places that exemplify the United States of America’s national heritage. Today, over 160 partner groups all over the United States carry forward this tradition with national parks.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore lies within the fourth-largest urban area in the nation, but does not have a private support organization comparable to those found in many other national parks. As a result, this region and this park are missing opportunities that can help Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore improve its services to visitors, increase its economic impact on the region, and improve its protection of historic and natural resources.

What's On The Association's To-Do List

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore needs public support to achieve its potential as a regional and national asset. The DNPA will assist the park in a variety of ways:

• Apply for grants and private sector funding to support the park.

• Receive and administer funding for which the NPS is not eligible.

• Build membership

• Publicize and encourage public support for park goals.

• Advocate and represent the park to elected officials.

• Extend the message of the park to community organizations and civic group meetings.

• Fund things the NPS cannot pay for due to federal regulations.

• Make and sell park-related merchandise to increase awareness and generate income.

• Host special events.

• Secure equipment and services through donation or purchase.

• Assist in renovating and developing park facilities.

DNPA recognizes the many other organizations active in park protection and land conservation in the region and sees itself as a partner and collaborator with these organizations.

The DNPA will not:

• Purchase or own land outside Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

• Function as an environmental advocacy organization.

• Act on the behalf of any park other than the national park.

• Conduct public training, workshops, or seminars except as a park partner.

The assocaition's board includes members from many communities in and around the park and represents the diversity of communities that have an interest in the future of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

The DNPA will be a membership organization. We will encourage members of the public to join the Dunes National Park Association and support this region’s only national park. The 2 million visitors who come to the park each year pay no entrance fees to the park. Joining the Dunes National Park Association will offer these visitors a way to contribute to the park they visit for free.

Initial Projects

The DNPA has identified three initial projects it will support for Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Nature in My Neighborhood Backpacks

1. Purchase of 500 backpacks for children who will be participating in the new Nature in My Neighborhood program at the Paul Douglas Center for Environmental Education. This program will be directed at children who live in Gary and nearby communities. Children will participate in a “nature play” area at the Douglas Center, and then receive a backpack to take home that will include such items as a compass, magnifying glass, a bug box, bird identification card, and other items to help children explore nature at home and recognize their role in maintaining clean water and clean air in their neighborhood.

Distance Learning System Equipment

2. Purchase or secure by donation equipment to create a Distance Learning Program in the park. This will include video cameras, microphones, and a laptop computer. With this equipment, students in classrooms will be able to connect to park employees and scientists in the field in a live-interactive experience via Skype. Students will be able to see field projects underway, ask questions of the field scientist, and learn more about the natural world. Through this program, students will engage in classroom experiments that complement the work in the park they are observing. In this age of limited budgets for field trips, this project will give students a chance to be connected with the park while in the classroom.

Historic District Signs

3. Purchase and installation of signs designating the Century of Progress Historic Homes District within Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. These signs will create an attractive visual entrance to the recently restored houses in the East Unit of the national lakeshore. The remarkable work of four families and Indiana Landmarks who are restoring these properties for the National Park Service is coming to completion this year and these signs will recognize this incredible achievement. These restorations are themselves an outstanding example of partnership with the National Park Service and it is fitting for the Dunes National Park Association to help in this effort.