As some of you may know, I am originally from Northwest Indiana. As a kid growing up there I often took for granted the beautiful natural areas surrounding me. I tended to forget that I grew up on one of the largest inland lakes and dismissed the fact that many people had never seen the great sand beaches I played on. If shown pictures of my playground, people might even mistake them for scenes from some eastern beach on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.
When most people think of NWI they conjure up visions of steel mills and refineries. Many even make comments such as “Wow, doesn’t it stink there!?” My only answer to them is that they must have been driving near Hammond or Whiting where most of the refineries and even a soap factory are found. But, when I think of NWI, I envision the eastern lakeshore and the Indiana Dunes. In fact, one of my favorite places is nestled between the steel mills of Burns Harbor and the nuke plant of Michigan City. This little bit of sandy paradise is known as Beverly Shores.
Whether driving down Lake Front Drive in the winter or enjoying a summer sunset from the beach, some of my fondest memories were from this area. I can remember staring up at the million dollar houses and envisioning myself looking out of the huge windows overlooking the water. Or sneaking around one of the boarded up historical homes imagining I were looking at the area as it was 100 years before. I remember riding with my first love on a cool fall night, begging to put the top down on his Sebring so that I could not only look up at the houses but also see the stars shining down over the lake.
While taking classes at IUN in Gary I was amazed at how many of the people in my environmental classes had never been to my childhood playgrounds. These people had lived in the region all of their lives and were now studying to make this area a better place and yet they had never seen many of the lands they wanted to preserve. These young (and older) scholars had never dug their toes in the sand of Mt. Baldy; they had never peered out over the hidden pools just south of the sand dunes; they never ventured out onto the ice shelves of frozen waves. In my mind, these students had never lived.
And so I urge you, dear reader, make a left instead of a right on your way home tonight. Take a road you’ve never driven down. Get out and explore! But, tread lightly, for your children and grandchildren should be able to see these hidden gems when they enter the world.