A citizens' group hopes to put a stop to a development plans to build a new banquet center at Indiana Dunes State Park.
Construction sketches highlight a proposed 17,000-square-foot privately-owned conference and banquet center that will be built as an addition to the east side of the Dune’s pavilion.
Dunes Action Group – whose signs have popped up around the area – believes the proposed addition will turn the historic structure that was originally built as a bath house into what they're coining Indiana's “mistake on the lake.”
The group’s co-founder Desi Robertson is adamant that the building of the banquet hall will cut into precious open park space and take away from the unique lake views that are currently on display as you enter the park.
“I don't think that's really compatible with the uses of a state park,” Robertson said. “That's their first view of the dunes and the lake shore and if they build a building there of course it's going to block that view.”
But the Indiana State Parks argue that the addition will be built over existing concrete and asphalt, without cutting into the sand. The bottom floor of the building would remain open-air, which preserves some of the view, according to the parks.
“We have somewhere in the neighborhood of three miles of beach that people can enjoy, so it really is a very small impact in that one location,” said Indiana State Parks’ deputy director of stewardship Ginger Murphy.
Dunes Action worries that family environments would also be at risk because alcohol would be allowed in the building.
“Every year there are tragic drownings and alcohol is only going to add to that,” Robertson said.
But the state says alcohol would be confined to the building and parking lot only.
“Alcohol is prohibited on the beach and that's not going to change,” according to Murphy.
A few beachgoers told NBC Chicago they were fine with the plans.
“I think it would be great,” said frequent Dunes visitor Deb Carlson. “There'd be more services, people could have weddings there. Help rejuvenate the area.
Others were skeptical of the changes.
“I'm kind of a traditionalist, so I would like to see it maintained in its traditional fashion,” said park-goer Margaret Saliga.
Most of the specifics of the developer's plans have yet to be made public, but could be unveiled Thursday evening at a public meeting in Valparaiso where the developers are expected to answer questions from the public.
For a look at the group who is fighting Pavilion expansion, head to dunesaction.org.
To view the State of Indiana’s current responses to many of their voiced concerns, visit http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/8462.htm.