- Associated Press - Thursday, April 2, 2015

CHESTERTON, Ind. (AP) - Plans to add a banquet center at Indiana Dunes Park Pavilion have raised concerns from environmental and local groups, who are worried it could affect access to Lake Michigan beaches.

The existing pavilion is currently being renovated, with some work scheduled to be done in time for this summer. Pavilion Partners LLC, the team behind pavilion renovation, says its goal is to make the site available for use year-round.

The Post-Tribune (https://trib.in/1EMQ03y ) reports the banquet center has drawn opposition from the local chapter of the Izaak Walton League environmental group. Chapter president Jim Sweeney said he’s worried the banquet center will be just the first of other beach additions.

Development team member Chuck Williams told The Times of Munster (https://bit.ly/1MHkCYI ) that the banquet center will be elevated, and that it won’t block beach views or access. He said people will be able to walk underneath it, and that it would be ready by next summer.

The banquet center is set to be built on existing asphalt and concrete next to the pavilion, Williams said.

The project is a public/private partnership with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The agency recently released a copy of the lease and the original proposal for the dunes pavilion site, ahead of an April 6 open house about the project.

“We’re hoping people will see the proposal and get their questions answered,” agency spokesman Phil Bloom.

Sweeney said his group is “looking at it with a fine-tooth comb” to make sure everything was done correctly for the project.

“If they haven’t, we’ll see them in court,” Sweeney said.

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