By Naturalist Baleigh Haynes
Can a name alter the feelings, thoughts, and opinions of others? As of this February, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore changed its name to Indiana Dunes National Park. But does the word ‘Park’ have any more significance than Lakeshore? Well, that would depend on who you are asking. The National Park System is well known, comprised of many different units; National Monuments, Preserves, Historical Parks, Historic Sites, Battlefield Parks, Military Parks, Battlefields, Battlefield Sites, Memorials, Recreation Areas, Seashores, Rivers, Reserves, Parkways, Trails, a few others, and of course National Lakeshores and National Parks. All of these influential sites make up the 418 official units within the National Park System.
The general public has a tendency to only recognize parks when they hear the words “National Park Service.” They think of parks such as Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion, and Olympic. These are just a few of the phenomenal parks that can take your breath away. It’s no wonder people by the thousands flock to such places.
Lakeshore to Park, so what does that really mean? It means that costal Indiana was just put on many people’s radars for the first time. United State citizens and international visitors alike can plan vacations and “bucket lists” around visiting all 61 National Parks. But what about the other 357 sites that make of the National Park System? The words ‘National Park’ have an advantage in the minds of some, with this unit ranking better than another. The label ‘National Park’ draws in more visitors than any other type of unit in the System. Yes, typically parks are larger units of land and can accommodate more visitors, but that doesn’t mean they have a higher value.
Being affiliated with the Indiana Dunes National (now) Park, I feel quite honored that our lakeshore has become the 61st National Park. It is encouraging to think that more people will experience the sights and sounds of our little piece of Lake Michigan bordered with sand dunes.
Lakeshore to Park, what does that really mean? National Lakeshore to National Park in reality is just a name change. ‘Park’ does not change the history of the past 53 years. In fact, it does not change the history of the past 100 years when the movement for the ‘Indiana Dunes National Park’ was first desired. ‘Park’ does not change this ecologically diverse region, nor the ways in which it has been preserved and conserved. ‘Park’ will not change the beauty that is evident in our marram grass-covered sand dunes, rare black oak savannas, rich wetlands, prairies filled with wildflowers, or the soft rolling waves that wash onto beaches. However, ‘Park’ has given a new name for those who were unaware of the all the beauty our lakeshore has to offer.