Since it became a national park, the number of visitors at Indiana Dunes has gone up dramatically.
Lorelei Weimer is the executive director of Indiana Dunes Tourism. She says she wasn’t sure if the name change would have any effect on visitorship, since the National Park Service doesn’t do much of any marketing. Weimer says the media attention to the change played a major role.
So far this year, the park’s visitor center saw more people than it has in any of the past eight years – and the year isn’t over. June and July visitor numbers alone have doubled since last year.
“I mean, it really was like, ‘OK, this solidifies how big this name change is,’” Weimer says.
Weimer says some tourists did cancel their hotel reservations because of the industrial spills last month that killed about 3,000 fish in the Little Calumet River. She says she wants to make sure newcomers understand that northwest Indiana is a place where industry and nature come together.
“We know that this is just a part of everyday in our area, but somebody that's coming from, you know, maybe some other state in the country's not aware of it,” Weimer says.
In the past, many of the national park’s visitors have been beach-goers from Indiana and Illinois. Weimer says she expects the new designation will bring in more visitors from other states and they’ll likely visit during more seasons.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.