Since its founding in 1966, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has grown from no more than an idea to a park of over 15,000 acres of protected land. Today, the Lakeshore provides critical habitat to rare plant and wildlife species and recreational opportunities for residents of Northwest Indiana and visitors from around the world. However, the park is not yet complete – certain areas within the boundary established by Congress are still privately owned. Current estimates indicate that 10% of the land inside the authorized boundary has not been acquired. Save the Dunes is working to help the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore acquire all areas within its boundary, and, where appropriate, expand the park.
Save the Dunes works with the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to identify priority acquisition areas within and surrounding the boundaries of the National Lakeshore that could one day form a key part of the park, providing valuable habitat to wildlife and recreational opportunities for visitors. Save the Dunes has mapped out these priority areas and uses this map to guide acquisition funding opportunities when they arise. Also using information from this map, Save the Dunes often reaches out and establishes relationships with landowners – whether they are individuals or companies – to gauge interest in selling or donating land that would be a valuable addition to the park.
Save the Dunes acquires land through donation and purchase. Many landowners are willing to donate their land, whether it is ecologically significant or within the park boundary, to ensure that it is preserved and protected for future generations. Save the Dunes also owns several conservation easements; conservation easements allow land owners to maintain ownership of their properties while entering into an agreement with Save the Dunes that guarantees the land will remain undisturbed and undeveloped. The easement is attached to the piece of land, rather than the owner, and continues to protect the land even after a change in ownership. In addition to donations and easements, Save the Dunes acquires land by purchasing it from willing sellers or at tax sale auction. Tax sale properties are small but affordable and allow the Save the Dunes to target land within the National Lakeshore’s boundaries.
Recent Acquisition Successes
On December 16, 2015, Save the Dunes acquired a significant property totaling nearly 100 acres in Hobart, Indiana. The organization has had this property on their “wish list” for years, as has the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. That is because 35 acres of the property lie inside the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore’s official boundary; this piece is in their Hobart Prairie Grove Unit.
The National Park Service has been working to secure the parcel for over a decade, but due to staff limitations and timing complications, saw no success. Thanks to the stalwart efforts of Save the Dunes, the land is finally acquired and will be donated to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in the future. The property is considered the last remaining acreage of significant size with high natural resource value left inside the park boundary. The picturesque property includes a portion of Deep River and Lake George, including a dramatic overlook over the lake that future visitors will enjoy. Approximately 20 acres are upland and the remainder is lake, floodplain, wetlands, and beautiful undulating forested ravines. The property is excellent habitat for waterfowl and migratory birds such as Great Blue Heron and will be a significant draw for passive recreation such as hiking and birding.
Help Save the Dunes Expand and Improve our National Park
Land acquisition is a crucial effort in preserving the Indiana Dunes. In an urbanized region such as Northwest Indiana, maintaining and expanding green space for wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities has meaningful impacts. If you own land that is located within or surrounding the boundary of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and you are interested in donating this property to Save the Dunes or directly to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, please fill out the land donation/sale form below or contact Cathy Martin.