Dunes naturalist wins Hoosier Hospitality Award
CHESTERTON — Indiana Dunes State Park offered between 800 and 850 programs last year, including those off-site, reaching about 105,000 people.
Brad Bumgardner, an interpretive naturalist for the park who provided those numbers, estimates he probably handled about half of those programs.
So it might not be much of a surprise that Lorelei Weimer, executive director of Indiana Dunes Tourism, nominated Bumgardner for a Hoosier Hospitality Award, an honor he received Aug. 15 from Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann.
Bumgardner started working with the state park system in 2001, while he was still a student at Purdue University-West Lafayette, where he majored in forestry and natural resources.
His first job was at Pokagon State Park in Angola, where he’s from. Bumgardner has been at the dunes for seven years.
In her nomination, Weimer said Bumgardner “is richly deserving of a Hoosier Hospitality Award because he goes above and beyond in attracting people to Indiana Dunes State Park for great programming, then he makes those he comes in contact with glad they visited.”
She went on to note that during the cold, snowy winter, Bumgardner “turned that negative into a positive” by generating interest in shelf ice formations along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Bumgardner was understandably modest about receiving the honor.
“Obviously, it’s humbling, but there’s a lot of work done in the park. There’s no single person,” he said. “It’s a large team here.”
Bumgardner was one of 18 representatives of Indiana’s travel, tourism and hospitality industry who earned the Hoo- sier Hospitality Award for their high level of service in tourismrelated jobs at hotels, restaurants, attractions and other destinations.
Community members and destination patrons submit nominations for Hoosier Hospitality Awards. Nominations are reviewed and the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, according to a news release from that office, selects winners. Outstanding service is a major factor in determining whether a person returns to a specific business or destination.
An economic impact report released in December 2013 shows the travel, tourism and hospitality industry is the sixthlargest industry in the state (excluding government), is directly responsible for nearly 140,000 jobs, generates more than $2.1 billion in tax receipts and contributes $10 billion in revenue to Indiana businesses, according to the news release.