On Thursday, there were 60 national parks in the United States. As of Friday, there are 61.
For over 100 years, Indiana has been trying to change the name and designation of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to Indiana Dunes National Park. On Friday, President Trump signed an omnibus spending bill — which also included the spending for the highly controversial border wall — that included the official recognition of Indiana Dunes as Indiana’s first national park. A bipartisan victory, the renaming was announced in a news release by three Indiana politicians: Democratic Rep. Pete Visclosky, Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski and Republican Sen. Todd Young.
“This designation certifies what we Hoosiers have known all along — Indiana Dunes is not just a state treasure, but a national treasure as well,” said Young. He commended Visclosky, saying, “Without his tireless advocacy, this goal would not have been accomplished. I look forward to visiting Indiana’s first National Park very soon.”
“This action provides our shoreline with the recognition it deserves, and I hope further builds momentum to improve open and public access to all of our region’s environmental wonders,” Visclosky said in a statement.
According to the IndyStar, Indiana Dunes National Park is made up of “15,000 acres of woodlands, prairies, savannas, bogs, wetlands and the titular dunes. Its beaches run along about 15 miles of the Lake Michigan shoreline.” While the designation as a national park does not necessarily mean more funding, it will hopefully increase tourism and lead to an economic boost in northwestern Indiana.
In a tweet posted by the park, rangers posed proudly with a makeshift sign:
Dustin Ritchea, promotions director for Indiana Dunes Tourism, told the IndyStar that Indiana Dunes received 3.6 million visitors last year, which places it just below Yellowstone National Park for the number of annual visitors. “This designation is long overdue and will be a significant benefit to northwest Indiana and a benefit to the entire Midwest region,” Ritchea said.
The park, renowned for its bird life, is also home to over 1,000 flowering plant species and ferns, and hundreds of animal species.