Indiana Dunes National Park hoping for makeover as Secretary of Interior tours area

CHESTERTON, Ind. (WLS) -- Indiana Dunes National Park is hoping for some federal help making over areas in bad shape after Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt toured the area Wednesday.

Indiana Dunes is asking for added funding through the new Great American Outdoors Act, which is meant to support long-delayed maintenance needs in national parks across the country.

"It is historic, and it's a tremendous opportunity for the American people," said Sec. Berndardt.

Bernhardt stressed the value of the national parks' wide open spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Education, inspiration," he said. "Just getting outside and having a chance to reset as an individual, as a group, as a family."

The bipartisan legislation signed into law in July by President Trump gives the National Park Service more than $1 billion each year for the next five years, drawing from energy development revenues.

The National Park Service says around the country, more than $11 billion is needed for this kind of work, which gets put off when money is immediately needed elsewhere. The Indiana Dunes alone needs roughly $40 million.

Park Superintendent Paul Labovitz said the money would support multiple projects, including the Portage riverfront, which needs erosion defenses.

The money would also fund renovations in the historic Goodfellow Lodge, which the park says was originally built by U.S. steel as part of a summer camp for workers' children in the 1940s.

"Anybody in this region who grew up in that era probably spent time there as a kid, and it's still there, so we're hoping to sort of have a rebirth," Labovitz said.

"The architecture is so cool," said Geof Benson, executive director of the Dunes Learning Center. "The old wood, there are some old pictures, how they did things a giant fireplace, and it was, it was the central location for the camp for all those years."

The new financial help would come from the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act, signed by President Donald Trump earlier this month, which will provide over a billion dollars each year over the next five years to national parks all over the country.
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