Long, long ago (it seems to me), I went on a high school field trip to the Indiana Dunes. It was a great experience studying ecosystems, marsh gases, and collecting data with my biology classmates. The educational value was, of course, amplified by running around with kites and frisbees on a beautiful local beach.
Apparently, the tourism board in the area wants to capitalize on the experience. They propose to build a 100-room hotel on the beachfront property. Their hope is to transform one of the largest preserved freshwater ecosystems into a more heavily trafficked ‘resort’ area. By attracting vistors to stay for a few days, rather than the 2-3 hours most enjoy, the hotel would generate millions of dollars for the local economy.
Not so fast, some say. Any changes on such a scale are sure to have negative effects on wildlife habitats and the pure aesthetic appeal of the shoreline. Even a suggested middle ground (low profile cabins instead of a high rise hotel) leaves staunch environmental advocates worried.
The dunes are like an oasis compared to the factory laden surroundings. I understand wanting to display the splendor of your state. I understand wanting to maximize the return on the state investment. There must be a balance, however, in bringing more people to enjoy its beauty and wiping it out for commercial improvement. I felt the same way after my visit to Alaska, where current debates are stirred over proposed developments (highways, residential upgrades, and so on).
There are only so many ‘untouched’ landscapes left (in this country in particular). Mining every available sqaure foot for resources and profit is ultimately self-defeating. Nature is beautiful as is and it should be left that way for as long as humanly possible.