Help for Indiana Dunes’ Mt. Baldy

May 6, 2011

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(Courtesy of Doherty Images)
Mount Baldy in Michigan City, Indidana.

More than two million people visit the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore each year, mostly during the summer months. It turns out that all the attention is having an effect on one of the most popular areas—Mount Baldy.

The 130 foot tall sand dune is the reigning champ of most popular spots within the national park. Nature created Mount Baldy roughly 40,000 years ago, but it has only taken a few decades’ worth of trampling to erode the dune. Put simply, all the bare feet are killing the dune grass.

“So many people come to Mount Baldy and I think they just really don’t know they’re damaging the dune. They don’t know that dune grass is really a fragile grass,” said Bob Daum, Chief of Resource Manager for at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

During a meeting at City Hall in Michigan City Thursday night, Baum told park goers and others that when the dunes grass dies, nothing holds sand in place, and the dunes erode. The effects of drifting sand are pronounced enough that Mount Baldy is moving about 15 feet per year.

Daum annnounced a plan that the National Park Service hopes will let dune grass spring back. The project includes putting up snow fences in certain sections of the dune, near its base and at its peak, so the grass can grow.

“Some temporary fencing to let that dune grass basically resprout,” Daum said. “And once it’s resprouted it will slow down that sand that’s blowing through it and the dune will grow again and actually end up being more beautiful.”

Some of that fencing will start to go up starting on Tuesday. The National Lakeshore is looking for volunteers to help out with putting it up. If you’re interested, call Lynda Lancaster, Program Manager the National Park Service, at (219) 395-1682.