On December 16, 2015, Save the Dunes acquired a significant property totaling nearly 100 acres in Hobart, Indiana. The organization has had this property on their “wish list” for years, as has the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. That is because 35 acres of the property lie inside the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore’s official boundary; this piece is in their Hobart Prairie Grove Unit. “Most people aren’t aware that the National Park Service has not been able to secure the last 10% of the lands within its 15,000-acre boundary,” said Nicole Barker, Executive Director. “We still have roughly 10% of the property left to acquire, and Save the Dunes is working hard to get the best of what’s left,” she added.
While the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was authorized by Congress in 1966 and expanded through four dunes bills in following years, the park did not receive funding to acquire all of the land within the authorized boundary, which is why the National Park Service only owns approximately 90% of the land within their boundaries. The National Park Service has been working to secure the parcel for over a decade, but due to staff limitations and timing complications, saw no success. Thanks to the stalwart efforts of Save the Dunes, the land is finally acquired and will be donated to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in the future.
The property is considered the last remaining acreage of significant size with high natural resource value left inside the park boundary. The picturesque property includes a portion of Deep River and Lake George, including a dramatic overlook over the lake that future visitors will enjoy. Approximately 20 acres are upland and the remainder is lake, floodplain, wetlands, and beautiful undulating forested ravines. The property is excellent habitat for waterfowl and migratory birds such as Great Blue Heron and will be a significant draw for passive recreation such as hiking and birding.
“Save the Dunes is thrilled to secure this property at long last,” said Cathy Martin, Parks Program Coordinator. “Our organization remains committed to securing the last pieces inside the boundary of our National Lakeshore and strategically expanding and buffering the park to protect biodiversity hotspots,” she noted. Martin says the organization will only work with willing landowners for such expansions.
The acquisition comes at an opportune moment because an exciting effort is underway with the City of Hobart, residents, conservation organizations and natural resource management agencies to collaborate to implement the Hobart Marsh Plan. Together they plan to set priorities for conservation, collaborate for more effective land management, and unified branding and wayfinding. “We hope this acquisition will help catalyze that effort,” said Barker.
Save the Dunes plans to apply for grant funding to undertake ecological restoration, add site amenities, and then donate the property to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The National Park Service plans to expand the boundary of the National Lakeshore to encompass this land in coming months.