Indiana Dunes becomes newest US national park, first in Indiana

GARY, Ind. (WLS) -- A ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the official renaming of the Indiana Dunes National Park Tuesday.

Dunes advocate Herbert Read, 92, calls the Indiana Dunes his spiritual home. He said he's been waiting "forever" to see a national park designation for the over 15,000 acres of secluded trails, diverse plant life and relaxing beaches.

"There's a lot of history, glacial history," he said.

Conservationists, including Read's father, recognized that legacy more than a century ago when industry began replacing nature. In 1966, several thousand protected acres became the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and expanded over time.

"That's part of our story. I think having that natural world interspersed with this man-made world is what makes this place globally significant," said Paul Labovitz, superintendent of the Indiana Dunes National Park.

Now, the Indiana Dunes is receiving that extra recognition as America's 61st national park and Indiana's first.

Labovitz said that while the name change won't impact funding, it's still significant.

"The reality is the perception of that name really means a lot to a lot of people," he explained.

For some of the parks' biggest fans, it's another must-visit destination for a national park passport stamp, like Yosemite or Yellowstone.

At Tuesday's ceremony, elected officials hoped that changing face will boost Indiana's economy.

"Folks are going to be visiting the rest of the region when they stop here and take this all in," Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said.
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