Huge Pedestrian Bridge Coming to Indiana Dunes?

Huge Pedestrian Bridge Coming to Indiana Dunes?

The Indiana Dunes may soon be home to a massive pedestrian trail bridge, similar to this one in Nebraska (pictured above), that would take hikers and bikers from the town of Portage, Indiana to the shores of Lake Michigan, where they would be able to access the Indiana Dunes trail system. The bridge would be a whopping 3 miles long, crossing over U.S. 20, Indiana Route 249, and the Burns Ditch waterway.

The park's superintendent, a man in a ten-gallon hat by the amazing name of Constantine Dillon (and who is, believe it or not, an actor/writer who created the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! series), has started pushing for the project with local leaders. He hopes the bridge could "become an icon of Northwest Indiana."

However, the Nebraskan bridge he touts as a model cost Omaha $22 million, and it was only 3,000 feet long. Dillon's proposed bridge in Indiana would be 5 times longer. Some local officials, like Regional Development Authority president Bill Hanna, think the money could be better spent elsewhere.

As a hiker, I like the idea of making the Indiana Dunes accessible by foot from a nearby community, but I'm not so sure about the proposed location. Take a look at where Dillon suggests building it by copying the following GPS coordinates into Google Maps (41.617496,-87.171106).  If the bridge crosses over U.S. 20, IN 249, and the Burns Ditch waterway (the man-made strip of water that runs south from Lake Michigan to Highway 12 and beyond), it seems like it would dump pedestrians out near Ogden Dunes, a small township by the lake just west of the giant Midwest Steel plant.

That particular area isn't exactly Hiking Central. The Indiana Dunes trail system is much easier to access a bit further west on the other side of Ogden Dunes, at the trailheads for the West Beach, Dune Succession, and Long Lake trails. Maybe that's where Dillon's planned bridge will end, but it doesn't seem like it from the descriptions he's given.

But the best location for a connective pedestrian bridge would be much further east, near or within Indiana Dunes State Park. From there, hikers would have instant access to the highest number of trailheads. In that scenario, the bridge would connect the dunes to the town of Chesterton, instead of Portage.

Have you ever hiked the dunes? Where do you think a pedestrian bridge would fit best?

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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  • Adam - I appreciate the comments. Visitors from Chicago make up about 40% of the national lakeshore's visitors, so we welcome and encourage people from Chicago to get involved with the park and be active in shaping its future.

    Let me clear up a few things. The proposed bridge would connect the east and west units of the park - there is about 1 mile of seperation - not 3 miles. The bridge would get hikers and cyclists over U.S. 12, Burns Ditch, and SR 249. (Not U.S. 20 - the newspaper is wrong.) The trail the bridge would connect is entirely within Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore - the bridge would traverse land not in the park. I would be happy to email you a map of the proposed location.

    As for whether this would happen - who knows? At this point it is just one of many ideas for connecting the gap between the park units, there are other ideas in the mix. There is no actual plan or action that we are taking toward building a bridge, it is just one of an array of concepts for the trail connector. Nothing is settled yet and we are a long way from any actual plans. But, to quote Daniel Burnham - "make no little plans." If Council Bluffs can build a bridge, why can't this area? Fee free to contact me if you would like more information about this or anything else happening at your neighborhood national park.

    Costa Dillon

  • Thanks so much for the response, Costa, and forgive my inaccuracies. I'll be contacting you soon to do a follow-up article where I'll set the record straight!

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