For a century, industry has been king along Northwest Indiana's Lake Michigan shoreline. But improving access to the beach is a big economic driver for the region.
It's not just about sitting on the sand, although the merits of doing so cannot be overrated. It's also about developing amenities along the beach that improve the experience.
In Michigan City, the Works Progress Administration built Washington Park, including the Washington Park Zoo and its iconic observation tower, in the 1930s, during the Great Depression.
Ameristar Casino in East Chicago has a hotel on the beach, one of Northwest Indiana's hidden gems.
Whiting has a new Lakefront Park that draws visitors to the city and the restaurants and other tourist draws opening there.
At Indiana Dunes State Park, the historic pavilion that had been deteriorating is being put back to use through a public-private partnership with Pavilion Partners, a group of investors spending its own money, not the state's, to improve Indiana Department of Natural Resources property.
Pavilion Partners followed the legally prescribed bidding process and is planning to build a controversial addition to the pavilion to improve the user experience. This banquet facility is being built where a concrete pad now stands. It's not disturbing pristine land.
Tonight, the Porter County Alcoholic Beverage Board will consider an alcohol license application for the restored pavilion. That, too, has been controversial.
But look at it from a practical standpoint. Downtown Valparaiso, for example, is thriving in large part because the General Assembly, at the city's behest, created additional liquor licenses to encourage restaurants to locate downtown. That's part of the dining experience at many restaurants. The beach is no different.
Those who have traveled to beaches with restaurants throughout the country know that many diners enjoy ordering a drink with their meal. That creates additional profit for the restaurateurs, sure, but since when is capitalism bad? Seeking to make a profit is the American way. In this case, it also generates additional revenue for the DNR to improve its parks.
We support the pavilion project as a way to improve the beach experience at Indiana Dunes State Park. Adding a liquor license for the pavilion will improve the dining experience there.
The Porter County Alcoholic Beverage Board should approve the license for Pavilion Partners today.