Congressman urges action to save shoreline
Last updated 12:23 AM, EST, Monday,
September 09, 2002
GARY, Ind. (AP) -- U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky
is urging northwestern Indiana officials to act quickly
to convert former steel industry property along Lake Michigan
for public uses.
Visclosky, D-Ind., said time is running
out to save prime lakefront property for public use now
that the region's steel industry is fading.
"While the impending contraction of the
steel industry is truly regrettable, we must not compound
this misfortune by failing to seize the tremendous opportunity
it presents," he told a gathering of regional officials
Friday in an address via satellite.
Visclosky told members of the Quality of
Life Council gathered at Indiana University Northwest
that stretches of industrial lakefront property are expected
to become available for redevelopment, restoration or
preservation as steel mills and other industries sell
In 1985, Visclosky set a personal goal of
making 75 percent of Indiana's 45-mile shoreline available
for public use by the end of 2000.
He envisions converting former industrial
lakefront property to public use, with the end result
a picturesque shoreline spanning the region, something
like downtown Chicago's.
On Friday, he called for a regional approach
to expanding environmental and recreational opportunities.
"We must not replace one set of exclusive owners of lakeshore
property ... with another," he warned.
Visclosky said a three-year-old effort by
Portage Mayor Doug Olson to secure 55 acres from Midwest
Steel for use by Portage residents was nearing final approval.
But he said talks must begin now among the
Shoreline Commission, local mayors and state legislators
to secure funding for the commission's use in the next
state budget. He said another two years that could be
used for lakefront planning must not be lost.
Environmental activist Lee Botts warned
that any planning for the lakeshore "won't get very far
if we don't get the people who live and work here involved."
James Segedy, a professor of urban planning
at Ball State University, said the cost of environmental
cleanups is just one obstacle to converting the region's
shoreline into recreational uses.
"The other obstacle is going to be the political
one," Segedy said. "... There are still a lot of people
hoping the steel industry is going to come back."