Invasion of the Illinoisans | Letters | Chicago Reader

Invasion of the Illinoisans 

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To the editors:

I just finished reading your article on the Miller section of Gary, Indiana [Neighborhood News, June 30] and being a citizen of Miller I enjoyed it. However, I almost wish that it hadn't appeared in print because now even more people will know that our community exists.

Please allow me to explain why I feel that way. We have a lovely community, which was expressed in the article. We also have lovely beaches, which were also described in the article. From May through September, every year, people from outside the area flock to the beaches. Not all cars are from Illinois but the majority of the license plates are Illinois. Normally I would not have a problem with this except that I spend my weekends keeping people from parking in front of my house, on my lawn, in my driveway, and anywhere else they think they have the right to park, instead of going to the beach myself. In the evenings I pick up their garbage; the nicer the day, the more garbage and the more illegal parking.

Last weekend was typical. As I was washing my car (in my yard) carloads of people drove up and down my street trying to park. One van (from Illinois with six men in it) parked (illegally) in my neighbor's yard was told to move and ended up getting stuck (there is a lot of sand in Miller) and tearing up the yard trying to get out. Were they sorry or apologetic? Quite the contrary, they yelled and cussed the whole time because they had to find another parking place. Not five minutes later, the scene was repeated with a car full of people (from Illinois). This time (this was the fourth confrontation in less than an hour), I simply went and got my golden retriever and told them if they wanted to argue, they could argue with him. Obviously they stayed in the car and yelled obscenities at me instead. I have neighbors who handle these situations much more gracefully than I do. They simply call the police and have all the cars towed which results in $25 tickets from the police and a towing charge of $75.00 and up. Nine out of ten cars towed are from Illinois. There is parking in Miller for the beaches. It costs $1.00 and it is an integrated beach area. But for some unknown reason (or known only to people from Illinois), hordes of Illinois beach-goers insist on parking illegally.

Our small community is a disaster on weekends. There are only two effective streets in and out of the Miller beach area and these roads will sometimes be blocked for two to five miles of bumper-to-bumper cars. A fifteen minute trip to the store can turn into a two hour nightmare trying to get back home. People who live right on the beach have had their fences torn down and used for bonfires on the beach, have had people urinating on their lawns without discretion (because most of these areas are private beaches with no facilities for the public) and the beach area is left a mess with broken beer bottles and pop-tops sticking out of the sand after the masses leave for the day.

Many areas around Miller are wildlife sanctuaries and protected areas. The ecosystem is very fragile, with some wildlife indigenous only to the Dunes and not found anywhere else in the world. Without the diligence of the Park Rangers around West Beach, even these systems would be damaged because of the indiscriminate parking, garbage and the apathetic attitude of many of these sun-worshipers. I have gone to Long Lake, located in West Beach, and seen the beer cans and bottles floating in the lake and observed the spray-paint graffiti decorating the wooden observation platforms along the lake. These platforms were erected with tax-payer money to benefit people who appreciate the wild beauty of the dunes. The sadness and anger overwhelms me when I try to understand why these beach-goers feel the need to ruin this oasis in the middle of the industrial Midwest and I get downright belligerent when I confront private property being destroyed.

I am not an old conservative right-winger, who resents young people having fun. I am one of the many thirty-somethings that populate Miller; active in social causes, support the arts and environmental issues, visit Chicago frequently and tends to be politically liberal. I don't mind that people take advantage of the beaches. What I do mind is this ever increasing influx of Illinois people who in their unmitigated ignorance and arrogance feel that they are superior to the people of Gary and Miller and express it by their lack of respect for the community they invade. I realize this is a generalization of Illinois beach-people, but I haven't met any yet on weekends that would make me think differently. The citizens of Miller are very proud of their town and have worked very hard to keep it stable, thriving, clean and safe. We still have problems to overcome but we don't need problems magnified by day-trippers who have no moral investment or commitment to the area.

If people visiting the area would park and stay in the public beach areas there wouldn't be the problem nor the antagonism between the out-of-towners and the residents. I personally don't understand why someone would rather pay $100 in fines for parking and towing instead of the $1.00 to park legally. It will continue to get worse this summer, so beach-goers should take this as fair warning; patience has run out for many residents of Miller. Cars will be towed and fined without hesitation, it will cost big bucks to get them back and many will find that life is truly a beach.

Thank you for your time and space.

L.M. Marshall

Miller, Indiana

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