A proposed bill in the U.S. House of Representatives could bring Indiana its first national park.
The legislation would rename Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to Indiana Dunes National Park. Indiana Dunes State park would remain unchanged.
Congressman Pete Visclosky, representing Indiana’s first district, authored the bill. It also has the support of all nine Indiana House members.
Visclosky says he hopes to attract new visitors to Indiana by harnessing national attention.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Public Information Officer Bruce Rowe says he thinks the name change could be significant for the park.
“National parks seem to have a greater prestige, seem to be more popular with visitors, so I think there would really be a change primarily in the number of visitors who came here and the perception of the importance of this park,” he says.
At the same time, Rowe says he’s worried the increase in visitors could be a challenge to the natural environment.
“There could be more potential damage to the resource if we don’t manage them properly,” Rowe says. “So, it would really be a matter of managing an increased crowd and trying to spread the impact.”
The House Natural Resources Committee unanimously approved the plan Wednesday. The full House will next vote on whether to send it to the Senate.
The dunes were initially recommended to become a national park in 1916, because of their biological diversity and geological features. The effort was set aside because of World War I.
The dunes became a state park in 1925, and then earned the designation of national lakeshore in 1966. The area has since expanded four times.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.