Saving Our Lake and Dunes
By Patti Eddington
The federal bureaucrat, who obviously hailed from somewhere other than the Great Lakes, stepped from her car to gaze at the glorious, unsalted, majesty of Lake Michigan and proclaimed: “But . . . I can’t see the other side!”
That’s not the punch line of a joke. It’s a true story Nicole Barker, Executive Director of “Save the Dunes,” likes to tell about out-of-staters who don’t have a proper appreciation of just how awe-inspiring the big lake and Beach Coast shoreline really are.
“So many people just don’t understand the vastness of it,” says Barker who has been at the helm of “Save the Dunes” -- an organization with the mission of protecting and restoring the dunes and abundant natural resources in Northwest Indiana -- for two years.
Barker grew up in Illinois but spent countless, sun-kissed days at her grandmother’s place in Porter Beach, IN. Her experiences there, and at summer camp, filled her with amazement and led her to a lifelong appreciation of the water, the dunes, and the beatific surroundings.
“My time spent near the lake sparked a curiosity and an appreciation of the wonder of it all,” she says. “By living, eating and sleeping outdoors, I deeply bonded with the environment. And, I learned there is an actual science to the lake.”
She also learned that while vast numbers of us adore these blessings, we run a constant threat of causing irrevocable damage.
“Save the Dunes” was born 60 years ago in the living room of area resident Dorothy Buell. She and about a dozen other women met on a summer day in 1952 at her Ogden Dunes, IN, home to talk about preserving dune land and establishing a national park.
Today the organization has 15 board members, a seven-person staff and hundreds of volunteers who take part in beach clean up and ecological restoration work days.
“We’re making progress, but when you think of what can be lost forever, it is profound,” says Barker.
The Biggest Threats
While some threats to the beauty of our environment are natural, like the rampant march of invasive plants, a majority are man-made. Water pollution is a severe threat. Indiana has the unhappy distinction of being the number one producer of combined sewer overflows into Lake Michigan, Barker says.
Air pollution produced by factories and mills is also a hazard, though as a region Barker says we are “doing better.”
Finally, there is the simple fact of overuse and mistreatment. Leaving trash on the beach, introducing bacteria and other “critters” into the lake when bringing a boat from another waterway, and trampling native plant species while hiking through the dunes are all detrimental.
How to Help
There are a few simple steps to take to help quell the dangers:
• Make sure to deposit your garbage in a receptacle, not on the beach. If the bins are full, tie your trash bag up and take it home.
• On a picnic, use cloth napkins, not paper, which can easily blow away. Carry your beverage in a reusable thermos, not plastic bottles.
• This is no time to make like Walt Whitman. Do not take the road less traveled and forge your own path. Use the trails and don’t trample the flora, which can take years to recover.
• When bringing a boat into the big lake from another waterway, make sure to give it a good scrub.
• Take part in events like the upcoming “Save the Dunes 60th Anniversary Gala,” Oct. 27 at Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton, IN. Sponsors are welcome and auction items are needed.
To volunteer for clean-up projects or for more information on the upcoming 60th anniversary Gala, contact:
444 Barker Road
Michigan City, IN 46360-3288
Patti Eddington is a freelance journalist from Michigan who has a giddy interest in not only the visual, culinary and performing arts, but the art of living a Beach Coast lifestyle