DNR officials today officially marked completion of an award-winning project at Indiana Dunes State Park that restored Dunes Creek to a natural stream after more than 80 years of being channeled through a buried pipe.
The process is called “daylighting” because it exposes a buried or hidden stream to natural light. The daylighting of Dunes Creek unfolded in two phases, the first time by design and the second as a response to damage caused by rain and flooding.
The Civilian Conservation Corps rerouted Dunes Creek through a culvert during the 1930s, and two parking lots were built in later years atop the buried creek.
In 2005, the decision was made to daylight an 825-foot section of the creek. That initial phase was funded through the DNR’s Lake Michigan Coastal Program and included construction of a wetland and removal of a 150-vehicle overflow parking lot. Park staff also designed and built an accessible boardwalk and picnic deck.
Three years later, 16 inches of rain fell during a four-day period, causing flooding that collapsed a 20,000-square-foot section of the main pavilion parking lot. Rather than replace the damaged section with a similar design, DNR chose to daylight the remaining 700 feet of Dunes Creek before it transected the beach and entered Lake Michigan.
This second phase was funded by a $1.4 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant administered by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with supplemental funding from the Federal Emergency Management Administration, Indiana Department of Transportation and the DNR.
To complement the boardwalk built in the first phase, a bridge and sidewalk were added to improve pedestrian safety and accessibility.
The two-phase project achieved several objectives: a restored natural environment; additional flood protection; improved water quality flowing from Dunes Creek into Lake Michigan; increased fish and wildlife habitat; expanded pedestrian access; and a dramatic change in aesthetics.
The project has been widely recognized, receiving the “Award for Environmental Excellence” from Gov. Mitch Daniels. The project also received the “Conservation and Native Landscaping Award” from Chicago Wilderness and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the “Conservation Project of the Year Award” from the Association of Conservation Engineers, and the “Jane Dustin Water Quality Award” from the Izaak Walton League of America’s Indiana chapter.
Also on Wednesday, the DNR unveiled the park’s new wastewater treatment plant that uses an algae wheel system, a new technology developed by an Indiana-based company. The system supplements the bacterial treatment process with algae to produce a high-quality effluent, emit negligible carbon dioxide, and generate less solid waste.
One of the first 10 such facilities installed in the United States, the new plant is expected to use 75 percent less energy than the previous plant, which was more than 40 years old and required costly annual maintenance.
Indiana Dunes State Park was established in 1925. The DNR-managed park contains 2,182 acres that encompasses two state-dedicated nature preserves, a National Natural Landmark, a 16-mile trail system, and more than three miles of continuous Lake Michigan beachfront.
Logo courtesy of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources