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The Times from Munster, Indiana • A3

The Timesi
Munster, Indiana
Issue Date:
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The Times Wednesday, september 25, 2019 A3 00 1 LOCAL TONY V. MARTIN, THE TIMES a view of Indiana dunes national park from mount baldy. the national park designation is credited with helping boost the number of visitors to the park this summer. JOSEPH S. PETE, 219-933-3316 just one word, but kind of a big deal.

The rebranding that changed the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to the Indiana Dunes National Park in February brought a surge of tourism this summer to the motley collection of beaches, sand dunes, woods and various ecosystems that hug 15 miles of Lake Michigan shore- line in Northwest Indiana. numbers for the summer were up more than compared to last Indiana Dunes National Park Supervisory Park Information Officer Bruce Rowe said. presume it was due to the name change to National The park did not get any additional funding when it became the 61st na- tional park, but it got the ben- efit of a prestigious and widely recognized brand that the docu- mentarian Ken Burns has called best Many peo- ple make it a bucket list item to visit all the national parks, which the National Park Service en- courages by giving out passports visitors can get stamped at each park. During the peak summer travel season, the new designa- tion brought an influx of visitors who have stayed at local hotels, dined at area restaurants and pumped increased spending into the Northwest Indiana economy. increased recogni- tion from the name change has brought an influx of visitors from all over the country, and the world, to the Indiana Rowe said.

park staff has really enjoyed the enthusiasm of these visitors about the new name and Indiana Dunes Tourism esti- mates 143,903 people have visited the Indiana Dunes National Park so far this year, as compared to 93,502 visitors in all of 2018 and 108,767 visitors in all of 2017. The Chesterton-based desti- nation marketing agency, which promotes the Indiana Dunes and other Porter County attractions, estimates its social media im- pressions on Facebook, Twit- ter and Instagram have risen by 12.3% this year, as compared to all of 2018. Indiana Dunes Tourism Com- munications Director Kailey Capuano said the Face- book impressions totaled 2.6 million year-to-date, as com- pared to 2.4 million in all of 2018. YouTube views of the 101 Video Series, What are the Indi- ana have skyrocketed from 1,300 last year to more than 28,000 this year. video series teaches visitors everything they need to know to plan their trip here, so I thought this really spoke to how interest has spiked in the desti- she said.

National park designation boosts number of dunes visits STAN MADDUX Times Correspondent HESSTON An estimated 20,000 apples were reported stolen from a LaPorte County or- chard Sunday, with some of the trees picked clean. LaPorte County police officers were called Sunday to Williams Orchard at 9456 N. 500 East near Hesston. Owner Jon Drummond told them the apples were picked from more than 30 trees on the northwest corner of the 132-acre spread, with some trees clean from top to ac- cording to police. Police said the driver of a pick-up truck matching one spot- ted on the orchard property by a passerby is being looked at as a possible suspect.

The wholesale value of the stolen apples was estimated at $6,000, and the retail value at $27,000. The heist put a damper on the successful grand reopening of the orchard where more than 1,000 people turned out during Labor Day weekend to pick apples and enjoy new offerings like bounce houses, a petting zoo and wagon rides. Food and beverages were also served for the first time in- side the original 1870s barn built by original owners Benjamin and Ester Wiliams. Drummond, of Chesterton, said he fulfilled his dream of get- ting into farming when he and his wife, Robyn, purchased the orchard following the 2018 death of third-generation owner Ken Williams. Family members of were not interested in taking over the operation and put the property up for sale, he said.

Drummond, who works in com- mercial insurance in Chicago, said the sale finalized until July, but he was given permission to prune trees and do other work on the farm while the sale was pend- ing. 20,000 apples reported stolen BILL DOLAN Times Staff Writer HAMMOND An Illinois man accused of helping ambush fed- eral ATF agents last year is pre- pared to plead guilty. Federal court records state Ber- nard A. Graham, 26, of Calumet City, has signed an agreement with the U.S. office and is scheduled to appear Mon- day morning before U.S.

District Court Judge Joseph S. Van Bok- kelen to formally change his plea and give up his right to be tried by a jury. Graham has promised under the agreement to admit he fired a gun June 7, 2018, during a robbery of two undercover federal agents investigating illicit gun purchases in Emerson neighborhood. guilty plea would avoid the prospect of his having to face a jury trial next month that could result in convictions carrying a sentence of life im- prisonment. Graham would plead guilty to charges of the armed assault and discharge of a firearm during a confrontation with federal under- cover officers who fired back.

The exchange left one of partners dead and an ATF agent wounded. The U.S. office charged Graham and Blake King, 20, of Chicago, last year with tak- ing part in that violent crime. King pleaded guilty last month under a similar plea deal. He is set to be sentenced Dec.

4. Under the plea deal Graham re- cently signed, the U.S. office would recommend Graham receive the shortest prison sen- tence available under federal sen- tencing guidelines, as determined by the judge. The agreement states Graham faces the mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for armed violence. agreement, which became public recently, states he is prepared to tell a judge he par- ticipated in a robbery under the guise of selling firearms to men with whom he and his partners were in negotiations.

The men were agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Fire- arms and Explosives conducting an undercover sting operation last June of illicit gun trafficking. Both Gary and the city of Chi- cago are annually wracked by deadly gun violence. Lake County has long been identified as a source of illicit guns in Chicago. ATF agents used a confidential informant to arrange a meet- ing with a firearms source via cellphone texts to take place about noon June 7, 2018, at a home near Fifth Avenue and Kentucky Street, a blighted residential area northeast of downtown.

Graham states he knew his partners, King and Raymon Tru- itt II, 28, of Lake County, intended to rob the agents at gunpoint and he fired a gun during the robbery and one of the undercover agents was wounded. Graham has been in federal de- tention since surrendering four days after the robbery. Truitt died June 7, 2018, in the shootout. A fourth individual, Leondre Smith, 30, of Homewood, Illi- nois, is charged in Lake Criminal Court in Crown Point with at- tempting to arrange an illegal gun purchase that led to the shooting. He is pleading not guilty, is free on bond and no trial date has been set.

Guilty plea planned in ambush CARLEY LANICH AND LAUREN CROSS Times Staff Writers NEW CHICAGO A River Forest High School student was arrested Tuesday after school administrators and police say he brought a gun to school in his backpack. River Forest parents were noti- fied of the incident in a letter from River Forest Community School Corp. Superintendent Steve Dis- ney confirming administrators acted on a report of a student with a weapon in the building. The student admitted to bring- ing a gun to school and was iso- lated until the gun could be turned over to law enforcement, accord- ing to the letter. Lake Station police confirmed Tuesday night that an officer at the school was notified about 11:30 a.m.

Tuesday about the in- cident. staff advised that they were notified by an anonymous student about the suspected stu- dent possibly having a gun in his Lake Station police said in a news release. A handgun was found in the possession, and the student allegedly claimed he was carrying it for protection because he was having issues with another student. River Forest administrators fol- low Indiana law regarding weap- ons brought in to school buildings, according to the letter. are impressed and would expect nothing less than the fact that the administration followed those requirements in perfect de- the letter read.

In their letter, school adminis- trators detailed school safety pre- cautions, including the replace- ment of a school resource officer maintained in conjunction with Lake Station Police. The position funded by federal grants has been in place for five years, according to the letter. The district employs eight cer- tified school safety specialists with at least one in each school. River Forest administration conducts regular safety drills, passed its last safety audit and is a routine member of the Lake County Safe School Com- mission. School administrators encour- age students and the community to Something, Say Some- or anyone on school grounds should always feel that they will be heard and supported and that administration will fol- low through when a report is the district letter read.

in and of itself, is the most important thing that can help our schools in being the safest they can Lake Station police said at the conclusion of the investigation, charges will be turned over to Lake County office. Student with gun at River Forest Weapon confiscated after student isolated LaPorte Williams Orchard has trees gold is at its highest price in years 711 Main St Schererville, in 219-322-2700 Southlake Mall Merrillville, in 219-769-1976 A miss this opportunity to sell! i a tat i wat.

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