Iíve hugged a good number of trees in my day, and Iím proud I did.

And Iíve been up and down Mt. Tom more times than my legs care to remember.

Yeah, I spent a lot of time at Indiana Dunes State Park during decades of living in Northwest Indiana.

Itís a special place even though the state let the pavilion fall into a bit of disrepair.

It is going to be an even better place if Gov. Mike Pence signs the bill allowing the Department of Natural Resources to obtain alcohol permits for any or all of its parks without having to go through local review.

What will be allowed is the sale of alcohol in the renovated pavilion for weddings and banquets ó and perhaps in a fine-dining restaurant.

Unlike some of the claims of the opponents, there wonít be beer carts running up and down the beach or at a rest stop at the bottom of Mr. Tom.

In one of its rare acts of vision, the General Assembly did something right. You canít say the same about all area legislators.

For the record, all Northwest Indiana House Republicans, except Hal Slager, voted to allow the alcohol. All area House Democrats opposed having a drink while watching the sun set over one of the most beautiful spots in Indiana.

And for some unexplained reason, all local senators opposed alcohol in the Dunes pavilion. I guess things are dry in the ivory tower.

Opponents argued the Legislature is usurping local control, pointing out that the Porter County Alcohol Beverage Commission denied an alcohol permit for the Dunes.

The reality is the sanctimonious opponents used intimidation and half-truths to convince the local alcohol commission to deny a liquor license.

Just because the park is in Porter County, a five-member board there shouldnít have the power to decide on an alcohol permit. Itís not a Porter County park.

No, itís a state park used by folks from across the Midwest. The state should decide whether a bride and groom can toast with a glass of champagne.

Opponents also argue alcohol in the pavilion will destroy the ďfamily friendlyĒ atmosphere of the Dunes. Iím not terribly sure what ďfamily friendlyĒ means, but I think the claim is hogwash.

Those who come to the Dunes for the beach, hiking trails and nature wonít even know there may be booze at a wedding reception in the pavilion. Most wouldnít even care.

If Pence signs the bill, we can turn a wonderful resource into something extra special.

And old tree huggers and kids running down Mt. Tom one day will figure out we did something right.