by Natalie Johnson, Executive Director, Save the Dunes
In light of recent planning efforts spearheaded by Meridian Hospitality Group LLC, hired by the City of Gary to plan for redevelopment at Lake Street Beach in Gary’s Miller neighborhood, Save the Dunes is concerned that the proposed plan could threaten sensitive ecological areas as well as conflict with the community’s identity.
The conceptual plan made available on Meridian Hospitality Group LLC’s website (Concept Evolution - Advanced Rendering II) looks at a 90 acre foot print near Lake Street Beach and extends toward Marquette Park near the Chanute trail. Proposed features include retail businesses, a hotel, conference center, a pier with boat slips, a visitor center and pavilion. If developed, a great number of dune and wetland complexes may be altered or indirectly impacted. Amenities, such as a pier, could also threaten sand movement and disrupt the size of neighboring beaches.
In a letter to Meridian Hospitality Group LLC (MHG), Save the Dunes states:
One of our greatest concerns regarding the proposed renderings is the lack of public input to date as well as the lack of consideration given to existing planning efforts in the region. A proposal that includes such extensive development and substantive changes to the current land must be highly public and incorporate the community’s input throughout the process.
While MHG states that its designs are not final and that its plans are subject to public input, Save the Dunes is interested in seeing more of these public engagement sessions taking place, as well as the release of updated conceptual plans that reflect the public's interest. Most importantly, we want to see development focused away from sensitive areas. Overall, Save the Dunes will not support a plan that causes negative impacts to the dune and wetland area as well as the shoreline.
In a separate effort, a number of Miller community residents are banding together to petition MHG and the City of Gary for answers as well as to provide guiding principles for what appropriate development may look like. Save the Dunes supports this effort and is sharing this community petition which can be found here. [Note that we have left the letter in Word format for easy modification. Please consider using this as template to modify, sign and send!]
Though we acknowledge that there are opportunities to develop in this area, such as repurposing existing structures including the armory and concession stand, developing anything further beyond that is unwise. While the plans are not yet final and representatives have suggested the footprint has been dramatically reduced, it is important for our organization, its members and supporters, to see updated plans and for the community to continue to be more involved in the planning.
Your voice can make a difference. Please consider writing the City of Gary and let them know that you do not support development along the waterfront or Chanute trail between Lake Street Beach and Marquette Park. We need additional public meetings with updated renderings that clearly reflect public input.
"Before real conversation can happen, we must know the exact footprint and understand the environmental impacts. We simply need more information and better engagement throughout this process.”