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Great Lakes Article:

Congressman urges action to save shoreline for public

Associated Press

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 excess land.

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."

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