Beach access closed at Portage Lakefront park
High waves force move; other areas of park still open
High waves forced the closing of beach access at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Park, officials announced Thursday.
Spokesman Bruce Rowe said high waves from recent storms eroded a portion of a sand dune used by beach goers to reach the beach. The narrow dune trail has been the only designated route to the beach since a ramp walkway was closed by erosion in 2015.
On Thursday, high waves crashed over the cement walkway and the beach path couldn’t be seen.
Rowe said in a news release the beach access would remain closed until a safe pathway can be reestablished.
All other areas of the park remain open to the public, including the pavilion, trail, riverwalk and breakwater. Portage Lakefront is operated by the city of Portage, in partnership with the National Park Service.
Last month, a Post-Tribune story tracked the devastation that erosion has done to the 9-year-old $16 million park, established on 63 acres of an industrial dump site along Lake Michigan. The park quickly became a favorite for visitors and it’s won awards for its restoration efforts.
Erosion problems began in 2014, fueled by strong storms that battered the shoreline with high waves.
Erosion experts have long cited man-made structures as significant factors that cause erosion. At Portage Lakefront, the Port of Indiana and the Burns Waterway break wall, which extend out into the lake to the east, block the natural sand drift.
High lake levels are another major factor, officials said.
At more than 580 feet above sea level, Lake Michigan’s water level remains well above the long-term average, Rowe said.
The higher lake level, in combi- nation with recent storm waves, has led to continued erosion and narrower beaches along the Lake Michigan shoreline, he said.
Port of Indiana officials have deflected any blame for shoreline damage or the loss of beaches, contending several factors were at work. The Port of Indiana is one of 68 applicants for a pilot program aimed at fighting erosion. Federal officials haven’t announced a winner yet.
Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers hopes to gain federal approval for a study to identify a long-term solution and to determine who is responsible for paying for it.
Carole Carlson is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.
This photo from Oct. 9 shows the path above the rocks that beachgoers take at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Park. The National Park Service announced Thursday it closed the pathway after erosion washed it away.