Thanks to funding from the Chi-Cal Rivers Fund, Save the Dunes is working in partnership with the National Park Service at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (INDU), Shirley Heinze Land Trust (SHLT), and the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association (NWIPA) to increase and improve recreational opportunities and restore 189 acres of riparian habitat along the east branch of the Little Calumet River.
Northwest Indiana has a wealth of natural recreation opportunities thanks to Lake Michigan and the existence of many publically accessible parks and nature preserves. Many of these sites have wonderful public access features. However, one relatively underutilized recreational resource in the region is its exceptional system of waterways including the east branch of the Little Calumet River. At this time, there is not a single formally developed canoe/kayak launch along the east branch of the Little Calumet River. Now is the time to build such recreational assets. Through this project, two canoe/kayak launches will be installed at SHLT sites – including an ADA-compliant launch at the Little Calumet Wetlands site. Pervious pavement parking lots will also be installed at two SHLT sites as well as 1.7 miles of new hiking trails. Increased wayfinding and interpretive signage will help connect communities to the water way and provide educational opportunities.
The National Park Service will restore 180 acres of riparian habitat along the Little Calumet River, including the removal of 20 acres of standing dead ash tree. Due to the Emerald Ash Borer, a massive die-off of ash trees has occurred in our region. The dead trees are a safety concern; hiking along INDU’s Little Calumet River trail is currently unsafe because the trees can fall onto the trail at any moment. National Park Service staff will be removing trees that pose any threat to hiker safety and leaving the rest for wildlife habitat. In addition to the dead ash removal, invasive species will be removed along the Little Calumet River within INDU as well SHLT’s Coulter site.
Expected benefits of our project include increased visitation of local parks, natural areas, and waterways by hikers, paddlers, anglers, birders, naturalists and others. The paddling community of the Calumet region is dramatically underserved, as opportunities for river recreation are limited by the lack of public use infrastructure. With this funding, we aim to take the initial step toward the development of one of the region’s prime water trail opportunities on the east branch of the Little Calumet River. In addition, although northwest Indiana has ample hiking opportunities, self-guided nature hikes where visitors can be better informed and educated while enjoying the beauty of their communities’ natural resources is lacking, particularly along waterways. To our knowledge, there are no current self-guided educational trails explaining the many benefits to both natural and human communities provided by the east branch of the Little Calumet River.
We look forward to celebrating the installation of the new hiking trails and canoe/kayak launches when the work is complete in 2017.
Thank you to the Chi-Cal Rivers Fund partners for this funding: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, ArcelorMittal, The Chicago Community Trust, Crown Family Philanthropies, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Joyce Foundation, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, and Wrigley Company Foundation.