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Paradise Besieged


The message of Thoreau has not been forgotten; it survives in the struggle to preserve areas of great natural beauty from the inroads of industry and land developers. The latest chapter in this struggle is the attempt of the citizens of Indiana to save the last remnant of the Indiana Dunes. The Dunes, a four and a half mile stretch of waterfront bordering on Lake Michigan, contains some of the world's most beautiful beaches and offers the best available recreational space for the seven million people who live in the industrial and metropolitan complex centered in Chicago. Their destruction would be an irreparable loss.

The threat to the Dunes comes from two steel companies, Bethlehem and Midwest Steel, who own the remaining land and wish to erect two steel mills on it. The steel companies, backed by leading Indiana politicians, support a proposal to build a harbor in the middle of the Dunes at Burns Ditch. They were jubilant at a recent report by the Corps of Army Engineers upholding the feasibility of the project.

The construction of the harbor, besides ruining the Dunes, would cost the nation's taxpayers at least $27 million plus interest and maintenance expenses and the people of Indiana would have to contribute an additional $38 million in initial construction costs. Ninety percent of the benefits of the harbor would go to the Midwest Steel Company alone. The gross injustice of this ideal is obvious.

The forces aligned against such a plan which include an influential group of Indiana citizens, labor unions, many members of Congress and President Kennedy, are employing several tactics to protect the Dunes. First they have asked the steel companies and the Engineers to explore other available sites for both mills and harbor. They have requested Northwestern University to cancel its purchase of two and a half million cubic yards of Dunes' sand from Bethlehem Steel (one would expect the trustees, faculty and students of the University to realize the significance of this unfortunate deal). Finally Senator Douglas and his colleagues have proposed a bill in Congress to create a 9000 acre national park in the area.

These efforts deserve national support.

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