By Kara Morrison
On this day in 1916, Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, held hearings in Chicago to gauge public opinion on a “Sand Dunes National Park.” Over 400 people attended, with many speaking in favor of the park, and without a single person speaking in opposition. While the movement to turn the dunes into a national park largely stalled for another 40 years, the work to preserve the dunes continued. After a 10-year petition, the Indiana Dunes State Park opened in 1926. Later, in 1952, Dorothy Buell met with a group of women to discuss a campaign to preserve the dunes and establish an Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, ultimately founding the Save the Dunes Council. Around the same time, many politicians and businessmen were also trying to obtain funds to construct a “Port of Indiana” and link the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. Buell and other council members began a fundraising campaign to save the dunes and were eventually able to purchase a 56-acre area of what is now Cowles Bog.
Dorothy Buell, courtesy of NPS Image Collection, “History of Indiana Dunes National Park,” National Park Service, March 19, 2020.
In addition to the Save the Dunes Council, Illinois Senator Paul H. Douglas, was crucial in establishing the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. He led public and congressional efforts to preserve the dunes. When the Kennedy Compromise was introduced, a program linking the need for both a national lakeshore and ports for industry, Douglas made sure the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore would be included and preserved. Thanks to these collective efforts, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was authorized by Congress on November 5, 1966, and on February 15, 2019, it was renamed Indiana Dunes National Park, becoming Indiana’s first national park.
Senator Paul H. Douglas speaking. Courtesy of the Digital Public Library of America
Kara Morrison is a recent graduate of Kenyon College and a contributor to the Turnstone Strategies blog. She is passionate about making historical and educational information accessible to the public.
Sources cited: National Park Service, Save the Dunes, Digital Public Library of America, University of Illinois at Chicago
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