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The Lake Street Beach in eastern Miller Beach.
|Coordinates (Miller Town Hall): Coordinates:|
|Annexed into Gary||1918|
|• Land||15.17 km2 (5.86 sq mi)|
|• Water||4.45 km2 (1.72 sq mi)|
|Time zone||CST (UTC-6)|
|• Summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
Miller Beach (also known as Miller) is a neighborhood on the far south shore of Lake Michigan in Gary, Indiana. It was originally an independent town. Located in the northeastern corner of Lake County, Indiana, the neighborhood borders Lake Michigan to the north and Porter County to the east. To the south it adjoins Lake Station and the neighborhood of Aetna, and to the west it is bounded by dunes, woods and wetlands that separate Miller from the US Steel Gary Works. Miller Beach is the closest lakefront community east of Chicago, and has been a popular vacation spot since the early 20th century. As of the 2000 US census, it had a population of 9,900.
Miller Beach is home to some of the world's most threatened ecosystems, and contains a high proportion of protected land. The neighborhood encompasses the westernmost part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, including the Miller Woods and Long Lake areas. The entire beachfront is city-owned and open to the public. West Beach in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore lies immediately to the east of the neighborhood.
Miller Beach is convenient to four major interstates, and is also served by South Shore Line commuter trains, which stop at Miller Station. Located less than an hour from downtown Chicago, the neighborhood has attracted Chicagoans as tourists and residents for more than a century. Having defied trends toward racial polarization and environmental degradation elsewhere in Gary and the region, the neighborhood has been described as "an island of integration and natural beauty".
Miller Beach is situated at the extreme southern end of Lake Michigan. The lakefront of Miller Beach is entirely city-owned, with the result that the houses are set further back from the lake than in many other Lake Michigan communities. In addition to its Lake Michigan frontage, the neighborhood contains numerous smaller bodies of water, the largest of which are the three lagoons that form the headwaters of the Grand Calumet River, in the northwestern part of Miller Beach. There are numerous interdunal ponds and wetlands, the largest of which is Long Lake, which adjoins West Beach.
The neighborhood borders the West Beach area of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to the west, beyond which lies the small resort town of Ogden Dunes in Porter County. To the southwest lies the city of Portage, also in Porter County. To the south lie Lake Station and the Little Calumet River floodplain. To the southeast, Miller Beach adjoins the Gary neighborhood of Aetna. Directly to the west, the inhabited areas of Miller are separated from the U.S. Steel Gary Works by the Miller Woods area of the National Lakeshore.
Having gone through several cycles of expansion since the 19th century, Miller Beach contains a number of distinct communities. The traditional downtown area between Lake Street and Grand Boulevard contains the neighborhood's oldest structures, including the Miller Town Hall and South Shore Centre for the Arts. The northern part of Miller Beach, surrounded entirely by national parkland and chiefly built after 1960, is itself sometimes specifically called "Miller Beach." Within that area, a number of apartment complexes are clustered near Lake Street Beach. Next to West Beach in the National Lakeshore, at the far northeast corner, the neighborhood's most expensive development, East Edge, rubs shoulders with the Miller Village public housing project.
West of downtown Miller Beach is a large apartment complex, Duneland Village, containing a small city park, the 3.47-acre Gibson Fields. The Glen Ryan subdivision, although considered by the city to be part of Aetna, lies just southwest of the downtown. In the opposite direction, more than a mile to the east of downtown on the Dunes Highway, the isolated Inland Manor subdivision lies in the midst of the Inland Marsh area of the National Lakeshore. All property in Inland Manor has been acquired by the National Lakeshore, but residents remain in their homes under reservation of use and occupancy agreements.
In the definition used by the City of Gary since 1986, "Miller" constitutes the land north of the CSX tracks and east of the Gary Works steel mill, in addition to all of the lying land east of Lake Street within the Gary city limits. It thus includes the traditional downtown area of Miller and the upscale residential area along the lake, and also encompasses small residential enclaves along U.S. 12 and U.S. 20. The Miller Citizens Corporation further defines "the Miller community" to include all neighborhoods in Gary east of Interstate 65, including Aetna.
When French trappers and explorers first ventured into the Lake Michigan area in the early 1600s, the southern end of the lake was populated by the Miami. By 1640, the Miami had been driven from the region by the Iroquois wars. They were replaced by Potawatomi, who moved into the region from the north. The Potawatomi had no permanent settlements in Miller Beach or elsewhere in the Calumet region, but they frequently came into the area to hunt, fish and gather food including wild rice. In addition to the Potawatomi, the Odawa people hunted deer in the region in the winter.
In 1673 the French explorers Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet ventured through Wisconsin and down the Mississippi, returning to Sault Ste. Marie via the Illinois and Chicago Rivers. The next year Marquette ventured down Lake Michigan to the Chicago River and the portage to the Illinois, entering the Mississippi in the spring of 1675. Marquette was sick, however, and returned along the shore of Lake Michigan that same spring. According to local tradition, he camped for a night at the mouth of the Grand Calumet River in Miller Beach, in present-day Marquette Park, shortly before his death.
Most Potawatomi were removed from Indiana through a series of treaties and forced removals in the 1820s and 1830s. Indian Boundary Road in Miller Beach marks the border of a tract ceded in one such treaty, the 1826 Treaty of Mississinwas. By 1836 the Potawatomi nation had been deprived of all of its lands in the region. Some individual Potawatomi, however, remained in the Gary area as landowners, including the first owner of the parcel that later became Lake Street Beach in Miller. Simon Pokagon, chief of the Pokagon Band, also held land in Miller. Other Potawatomi continued to visit the region in the spring and summer into the late 19th century.
As widespread white settlement began in the Upper Midwest in the 19th century, many promoters and speculators sought to bring commercial and industrial development to the Calumet Region, but most were defeated by the difficult terrain and lack of transportation. The first man to plat a town in modern-day Miller Beach was early settler and trader Joseph Bailly, who in the 1830s laid out a "Town of Bailly" at the mouth of the Grand Calumet River, in present-day Marquette Park. But nothing came of either the Town of Bailly or the "Indiana City" that was platted near the same location a few years later, in 1837. The entirety of modern-day Gary was still unsettled in 1850, except for a tavern in Tolleston.
In 1833, an inn called the Bennett Tavern was built on the Miller Beach lakefront at the mouth of the Grand Calumet River, on the stagecoach route between Detroit and Chicago. It stood for only a few years. In 1837, the area that would become downtown Miller was purchased and platted by speculators William and George Ewing and George Walker, though it was not developed until the railroad arrived in 1851. The development bore the initial name of "Ewing's Subdivision".
Town of Miller
With the coming of the railroads, a train stop first called "Miller's Junction" and then "Miller's Station" or "Miller's", and ultimately "Miller", was constructed in 1851 by the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway. Miller first became known as "Miller's Station" or "Miller's Junction" in the 1850s, when the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad was built through the area. The person for whom it is named is unknown. Michigan Southern agent John Cook recalled the name "Miller" as coming from a construction engineer named John Miller who lived in the area, at whose home the early trains would stop for water and wood between LaPorte and Chicago. Other possible namesakes include an innkeeper for whom train crews dropped off milk; a section boss in charge of roadbed maintenance; and a foreman who buried his son in the area.
Swedes began to migrate to the United States in large numbers in the 1860s as a result of the famines in Scandinavia, and some of these immigrants settled in Miller. The small Swedish-American town drew its livelihood from sand mining, ice harvesting in the winter, and maintaining railroad equipment. The town of Miller remained very small; only about twelve families were present in the area in 1870. Miller acquired its own post office in 1879. Beginning in the 1880s, the town also hosted a small professional sturgeon and whitefish fishery. Cranberries grew abundantly in the nearby dunes until the moss was harvested to use in packing fruit.
The combination of a pristine natural environment and proximity to Chicago soon began to attract visitors from the city. Bringing equipment from Chicago by train, aviation pioneer Octave Chanute staged a series of experimental flights from the 70-foot dunes near Lake Street Beach in 1896. Around the same time, the pioneering botanist Henry Chandler Cowles conducted his early studies of ecological succession in Miller Woods.
In subsequent decades, the Chicago film industry used the Miller dunes and beaches as backdrops in numerous silent films. Among these were films by the Selig Polyscope Company, and the Essanay Studios productions The Fall of Montezuma (1912), in which the Miller beach represented the coast of Mexico, and The Plum Tree (1914).
The town of Miller was incorporated in 1907, in an effort to forestall annexation by the newly-founded city of Gary. The town had a population of 638 people as of the 1910 census. The Miller town hall, which still stands, was built in 1911. Gary mayor Thomas Knotts first attempted to annex Miller in 1910 as part of a larger territorial dispute with East Chicago, but the effort was successfully resisted. In 1915, however, Miller and Gary formed a joint parks department to administer part of the land that is now Marquette Park. Encountering difficulties with land purchasing, Gary sought to annex Miller so that it could take the property by eminent domain. Miller was accordingly annexed into Gary in 1918, by a resolution of the Miller town board.
Part of Gary
After its annexation, the community continued to grow. Drusilla Carr, proprietress of Carr's Beach (now Lake Street Beach), collected rent on more than a hundred beach cottages. With attractions including a shooting gallery, bath house, miniature railroad and "night spots", Carr's Beach was Gary's most popular summer destination in the late 1920s. The beach was initially very difficult to reach,
In the mid-20th century, African-Americans were banned from Miller Beach except for day workers. Segregation had been brought to Marquette Park by Gary power broker William Palmer Gleason, the city's first parks commissioner. Exclusion from Marquette Park was a particular point of frustration for blacks from the Midtown neighborhood, who had to travel more than 20 miles to find a beach in the summer. Efforts to integrate the beaches of Miller began with a march on August 28, 1949 (selected to commemorate the Salerno Beach landings of World War II) in which a group of white and black Gary residents attempted to integrate the beach, but were driven back by an armed mob. The question of beach integration became a flashpoint in the 1951 mayoral race, and racial incidents continued through the 1950s and early 1960s.
The first house in Miller Beach was sold to an African-American family in 1964, and by 1980 the neighborhood was 52% African-American. Prompted by local concerns that the white flight that had occurred elsewhere in Gary would also occur in Miller, a Miller Citizens Corporation (MCC) was founded in 1971. The MCC worked to stem white flight through positive publicity about Miller's advantages, and by banning "For Sale" signs. Unlike similar groups elsewhere in the city, the goal of the MCC was not to prevent integration, but to slow the process so that events did not spiral out of control. The organization also addressed local environmental and business issues, including the prevention of sand mining and the expansion of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to include Long Lake and Miller Woods.
In 1967, Richard Hatcher became the mayor of Gary, the first African-American to become mayor of any major US city. The voting in his close-fought election was almost entirely along racial lines, with white Democrats voting en masse for the Republican candidate. However, a key exception was Miller, where Hatcher obtained decisive support from a group called the "Miller mafia". These were a primarily Jewish group of Miller residents who had worked actively against the Wallace presidential campaign in 1948 and had subsequently supported Hatcher in his bid for the Gary Common Council.
The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was founded in 1966 through the efforts of Senator Paul Douglas, culminating a struggle that had begun in the 1890s. The initial boundaries of the Lakeshore, however, did not include the Miller Woods and Long Lake areas in Miller Beach. After the death of Senator Douglas in 1976, a Lakeshore expansion bill in Douglas' memory gained bipartisan support. With the bill's passage, the Lakeshore was expanded by 4,300 acres, to include Miller Woods, Long Lake and numerous other areas.
In 2002, the Indiana state government shifted the responsibility for property tax assessment of industrial sites from local governments to the state, resulting in dramatically lower assessments for U.S. Steel and other Gary industries. Faced with plummeting revenue, the city nearly doubled tax rates, leading to widespread outcry. Together with other organizations around the state, the Miller Citizens Corporation lobbied successive state governments to cap the maximum rates at which property taxes could be assessed. The tax caps became law in 2008, and became part of the state constitution in 2010. Disputes between the MCC and the city continued, however, over the granting of relief from the caps by the Distressed Unit Appeals Board.
The natural landscape of Miller Beach consists of a mixture of high dunes, dune and swale ridges, and current or former wetlands. Wetland ecosystems include marshes, interdunal ponds, riparian wetlands, and pannes. The panne habitat of the Great Lakes region, found in Miller and neighboring West Beach, is considered "Globally Imperiled" by the Nature Conservancy. Upland ecosystems include mesic prairie and black oak savanna.
Miller Beach lies entirely within the Lake Michigan lacustrine plain, and is part of the "Little Calumet-Galien watershed", which covers the Lake Michigan coastal drainage area from the South Side of Chicago to Benton Harbor, Michigan. Water in Miller Beach thus drains into Lake Michigan, either directly or indirectly through the Little Calumet and Grand Calumet rivers. The area's groundwater is part of the Calumet aquifer, an unconsolidated aquifer with a saturated thickness of between 5 and 40 feet, often less than 15 feet below the ground level. Below the groundwater and a substantial layer of glacial till lies a carbonate bedrock aquifer, but this is seldom utilized due to the availability of water from Lake Michigan.
The Wisconsinan glaciation ended in the Miller Beach area around 14,000 years ago, forming Glacial Lake Chicago as the glaciers melted. The subsequent isostatic rebound of the earth's crust led to a series of different lake levels, each of which marked the landscape of Northwest Indiana. During the Algonquin stage, the Tolleston Beach ridges were formed, which define the unique dune and swale topography of the Calumet Region, including the portion of Miller south of Long Lake. The later and lower Nipissing stage created the dunes in the northern part of Miller Beach. The effects of the glacial retreat are credited for the extraordinary biodiversity of the Indiana Dunes, with some boreal species remaining in hospitable habitats after the climate had warmed, while more heat-tolerant species such as the six-lined racerunner and prickly pear cactus moved in during the Holocene climatic optimum to inhabit the mesic uplands.
The original mouth of the Calumet River was located near Marquette Park, where the Grand Calumet Lagoons are today. Each lagoon marks a former mouth of the river; as one mouth drifted shut with sand, the river would move eastward to create a new opening. The direction of the Grand Calumet was changed in 1862, and dunes have once again drifted across the river's former mouth, so that the Grand Calumet now rises in the East Lagoon in Marquette Park and flows westward through Miller Woods. Because the river is nearly flat, however, the direction of flow through the Grand Calumet Lagoons sometimes reverses after heavy rains.
Further south, the landscape is dominated by the dune and swale topography of the Tolleston Beach: low and regular dune ridges alternating with shallow wetlands. Each ridge marks a former line of foredunes along ancient Lake Chicago. The dunes were historically dominated by black oak savanna, and the swales by buttonbush wetlands, both maintained by frequent burning.
In Miller's southeastern corner lie the extensive wetlands of Long Lake and Inland Marsh, which are chiefly owned by the National Park Service. The Little Calumet River flows just south of the neighborhood, in northernmost Lake Station.
Much of Miller Beach consists of protected land. The Miller Woods, Long Lake and Inland Marsh regions of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore are protected by the National Park Service, as is the adjacent West Beach area. Marquette Park and the entire beachfront are protected by the City of Gary. In addition, the private Shirley Heinze Land Trust operates two major nature preserves in Miller Beach, and protects a total of approximately 20 acres. The Green Heron Pond Nature Preserve consists of a mixture of interdunal wetland and upland savanna, and is located a short distance east of Miller Woods. The Bayless / Miller Dunes Nature Preserve consists of a mixture of "high dunes" habitats, and lies north of Long Lake in northeastern Miller Beach.
Although Miller itself has little history of industrial activity, substantial contamination and degradation has occurred. The Lake County and Indiana Dunes areas have suffered historically from severe air pollution, due to the heavy industry nearby. Animals sampled from a protected wetland in Miller showed higher levels of methylene chloride, toluene, acetone and other contaminants than did similar organisms sampled near known toxic waste dumps. Illegal dumping is an long-standing problem in the more sparsely inhabited parts of the neighborhood, and the target of long-standing efforts at prevention and cleanup, particularly in the National Lakeshore. In 1999, more than 14,000 pounds of trash were airlifted from the Lakeshore's Miller Woods by helicopter.
Flora and fauna
The Indiana Dunes region surrounding Miller Beach is a place of extremely high biodiversity. Within just the Miller Woods area of Miller Beach, 287 species of flora and fauna have been identified. Rare species of animals and plants found within Miller Beach include the federally endangered Karner Blue butterfly and the federally threatened Pitcher's thistle.
A 1990 survey found 16 species of mammals in Miller Woods: Virginia opossum, Northern short-tailed shrew, masked shrew, eastern mole, cottontail rabbit, white-footed mouse, prairie deer mouse, meadow vole, muskrat, fox squirrel, gray squirrel, thirteen-lined ground squirrel, red squirrel, raccoon, long-tailed weasel, and white-tailed deer. The largest wild predator in the Miller Beach area today is the coyote, which only recently returned to the area; the largest herbivore is the white-tailed deer. The beaver and white-tailed deer were extirpated by the early 20th century, but have reestablished themselves in recent decades.
Miller Beach and adjacent West Beach provide a stopping point for migratory birds and insects crossing Lake Michigan. Migratory birds frequently stop at Long Lake, and ship captain and ornithologist J.P. Perkins has credited Miller with being at the southerly end of the "South End Flyway", where "cross-lake migration reaches its greatest intensity". Miller also lies under a major flyway of the sandhill crane, passing between the Jasper-Pulaski marsh in Indiana and the Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin.
Off the shoreline of Miller Beach, Lake Michigan is home to nearly 100 species of fish, and supports a large recreational fishing industry. Inland, the Grand Calumet Lagoons support their own distinct fish community, with a total of 14 species known to be present as of 1995. The lagoons are home to ecologically sensitive indicator species absent from the rest of the Grand Calumet, such as the Iowa darter and lake chubsucker. In southeastern Miller Beach, Long Lake also formerly sustained a diverse fish community, including yellow perch and largemouth bass in the early 20th century. However, because the portion of Long Lake within Miller Beach was subsequently cut off from the rest of the lake by road construction, and occasionally dries out, very few fish are now present there.
Miller Woods is home to 18 species of reptiles and amphibians, giving it one of the most diverse herpetofauna of any area in the Indiana Dunes. This includes three species of newts and salamanders, six species of frogs and toads including the Fowler's toad, four species of turtles including the snapping turtle and Blanding's turtle, one species of lizard (the six-lined racerunner), and four species of snake. The only water snake in the area is the common garter snake. Another eight species of reptiles and amphibians were present in Miller in the early 20th century, but have now been extirpated. In addition, there have been unconfirmed reports of the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake near the Miller Beach side of Long Lake.
At 1,445 plant species, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has more species per square mile than any other national park. Dominant plants in the Miller Beach area include marram grass and cottonwood near the shore, cattails and buttonbush in the wetlands, and black oak and silver maple in wooded uplands. Numerous species of orchids are found within the natural areas of Miller Beach, including green twayblade, purple twayblade, small green fringed orchid, tubercled orchid, Northern fringed orchid, and snake-mouth orchid.
Miller began in the 19th century as a primarily Swedish-American working-class town. The neighborhood's demographic makeup was white and working-class in the early 20th century, becoming wealthier beginning in the late 1940s as it attracted affluent residents from elsewhere. Along with other areas on Gary's periphery, Miller saw strong 70% growth during the 1950s. Racial integration began in the 1960s and accelerated in the 1970s. However, unlike other neighborhoods of Gary that saw abrupt white flight during this period, Miller Beach saw a stable and peaceful transition through the 1970s to a majority-African-American population, with most of the new African-American residents being "upwardly mobile black professionals" from elsewhere in Gary. Miller Beach and the previously little-developed Westside neighborhood were the only parts of Gary to see population growth during the 1970s.
As of 2000, Miller Beach was 70.9% African-American and 24.3% white. 4.8% of the population were of Hispanic ethnicity. 9.5% of Millerites were over the age of 65, and 26.0% were under 18. The neighborhood's 9,900 residents made up 4,280 households, for an average of 2.43 persons per household.
Since early in the community's history, many people moving into Miller Beach have come from Chicago, "seeking a getaway from the city". Early examples included Alice Mable Gray, better known as "Diana of the Dunes", who frequented Miller Beach and nearby Ogden Dunes. In the 1950s, as it gained prominence as a resort area, the neighborhood became home to Nelson Algren, who bought a house on the East Lagoon with the proceeds from the Pulitzer Prize and The Man With the Golden Arm. Another wave of immigration from Chicago began in the 1990s.
Miller Beach has had a vibrant religious life dating back to 1874, when the Swedish-speaking Bethel Lutheran church was organized, meeting originally in the Miller schoolhouse. Bethel Lutheran acquired a building of its own anniversary in 1894, and an ordained minister in 1905.
Miller Beach is home to Gary's only synagogue still in operation, Temple Israel, a Reform congregation founded in 1910. Temple Israel was originally located in downtown Gary; the building in Miller Beach was constructed in 1955.
The Miller Garden Club, founded in 2000, hosts an annual garden walk and plant sale. The neighborhood also hosts several community gardens. One of these is a joint project between Miller's Lutheran and Jewish congregations.
The Miller Citizens Corporation (MCC) has played a key role in Miller Beach politics and society since its foundation in 1971. Originally founded to help prevent white flight and disruption during the sudden changes of the 1970s, the MCC quickly expanded into other ways of promoting community stability, including through environmental preservation and zoning ordinances. In the 21st century, the MCC has also been active in addressing city fees and property tax issues.
The Humane Society of Northwest Indiana, based in southern Miller Beach, serves a wide area of Lake and Porter counties. Founded in 1971 in downtown Gary, Crisis Center has been based in Miller Beach since 1988. Located in the beachfront area, Crisis Center provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to teens and adults nationwide.
Miller Beach is part of the First District of the Gary Common Council, which is currently represented by Councilwoman Marilyn Krusas. Residents additionally vote for three at-large council seats.
Emergency services in Miller Beach are provided by the Gary fire and police departments. In addition to its ordinary presence, the Gary Police Department operates beach patrols using all terrain vehicles during the summer months. The city police presence has been further augmented in the past by private patrols organized by local businesses. The South Shore Line is additionally served by the NICTD transit police, and the National Lakeshore properties by the United States Park Police. As of 2010, the overall crime rate for the 46403 ZIP code, which includes Miller Beach, was lower than Gary as a whole, although the rate of property crimes was slightly higher.
The neighborhood was served by two fire stations until 2010. In that year, the station located in the northeastern, beachside area was closed down. Miller Beach is now served solely by the Number 7 Station, located in the neighborhood's downtown area.
The economy of Miller Beach is dominated by retail and tourism, with no heavy industry. Home values in Miller are the highest of any Gary neighborhood, as are local incomes. Because of its affluent population, Miller is also able to attract more luxury high-end housing developments than other Gary neighborhoods. Many Miller residents either commute to Chicago or have their primary residence in Chicago and vacation at Miller Beach.
In 2006, a home in the neighborhood sold for more than US$1 million for the first time. As of 2008, the "East Edge" development in northeastern Miller Beach was the city's most expensive, with single-family home prices in excess of $500,000. As of 2000, Miller's 4,773 housing units had an owner-occupancy rate of 47.4% and a vacancy rate of 10.3%.
Commercial activity in Miller Beach is clustered primarily along Lake Street and U.S. 20, in the neighborhood's southwestern corner. The Lake Street corridor is a traditional downtown area, with a "pedestrian-friendly, 'Main Street' character." The downtown area has the highest walkability of any part of Miller Beach. Most retail catering to neighborhood residents is concentrated along this corridor. The historic Miller freight depot was relocated just a few yards from its original location and is now the main dining room for Miller Pizza Station, a popular restaurant in the downtown area.
The U.S. 20 corridor, running along the neighborhood's southern end and partially shared with the Aetna neighborhood, is another commercial center. Businesses along U.S. 20 cater primarily to highway and interstate travelers. This corridor is also home to several strip clubs, a source of frequent anger from community activists.
There is an additional cluster of retail and tourist-oriented businesses near the west end of Marquette Park. During the summer months, the Miller Beach Farmers' Market provides an alternative source of fresh food. Begun in 2008 and sponsored by the Methodist church, the Farmers' Market seeks to promote a sustainable local economy and allow residents to purchase high-quality food within Gary.
Miller lies near the nexus of four major interstates. Interstate 65 has its northern terminus just southwest of Miller Beach, between the Aetna and Emerson neighborhoods. Interstates 80 and 94 (the Borman Expressway) have exits at Interstate 65 and at Indiana State Road 51 in Lake Station. The Indiana Toll Road has exits in nearby Lake Station, at State Road 51, and in Aetna, at Dunes Highway.
Several highways also pass through or near the neighborhood. U.S. 12 was the first highway to serve the area, laid out along the South Shore Line right of way from Miller into Porter County. U.S. Route 20 also passes along the neighborhood's southern edge. These two highways connect Miller Beach to the interstates, downtown Gary, and the nearby towns of Porter County such as Portage and Burns Harbor. State Road 51 has its northern terminus at U.S. 20, at the southern limit of Miller Beach, and connects the neighborhood to areas south of the Little Calumet River, including Lake Station and Hobart.
Miller Beach is traversed by three freight railroads: the Norfolk Southern, which runs north of the downtown area; the CSX, which runs through the heart of downtown, and the South Shore Line, which runs along the neighborhood's southern edge. Two of these lines also carry passenger trains: NICTD commuter trains run along the South Shore Line, and Amtrak trains pass through on the Norfolk Southern tracks. The neighborhood is also a transfer point between the South Shore and CSX freight lines.
The NICTD South Shore Line stops in Miller, and in nearby Ogden Dunes, Indiana and downtown Gary. Unlike most commuter trains in the Chicago area, the NICTD South Shore Line is powered entirely by electricity rather than diesel. During the week, Miller Station is served by 14 eastbound trains and 12 westbound trains. The South Shore Line provides commuter transit from South Bend to Millennium Station in downtown Chicago. The passenger trains of the South Shore Line have served Miller since 1908, when the line was built as an interurban railroad by tycoon Samuel Insull. The South Shore Line is accordingly sometimes called "the last interurban".
Public bus transportation throughout the city of Gary is provided by the Gary Public Transportation Corporation (GPTC), a quasi-governmental agency. Founded in 1974, the GPTC is the successor of Gary Railways, a private company that provided bus and streetcar service in Gary beginning in 1912. Miller Beach is served by the GPTC's Route 13 buses, which run between the Miller/Aetna region and the hub station at Gary Metro Center in downtown Gary. At the Metro Center, passengers can transfer to lines serving other parts of Gary, as well as express buses that provide connections to such nearby communities as East Chicago, Hammond, Merrillville and Crown Point. The Metro Center also serves Greyhound buses and the South Shore Line, and is the eastern terminus for many South Shore Line trains.
Walking and bicycling are also popular modes of travel in Miller Beach. A bicycle trail, the Marquette Trail, runs through National Lakeshore property along the northern shore of Long Lake, connecting downtown Miller Beach to West Beach in Porter County. Many GPTC buses are equipped with bicycle racks. The Gary Green Links plan, which broke ground in May 2011, calls for additional trails and bikeways connecting Miller Beach to other towns and neighborhoods in the region. The National Lakeshore and Marquette Park also afford numerous hiking trails. In terms of day-to-day walkability, the 46403 ZIP code, which encompasses Miller Beach and Aetna, has a mean Walk Score of 30 out of 100, tied for the lowest score among regions of Gary.
Recreation and tourism
The principal tourist attractions in Miller are the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Marquette Park, and the attached beaches. Attractions within Marquette Park include the historic Chanute Aquatorium and Marquette Park Pavilion, Marquette Beach, and the East Lagoon, at the former mouth and modern-day headwaters of the Grand Calumet River. The lagoon has been extensively landscaped, with a small island connected to the shore by two footbridges: a suspension bridge on the north and a Japanese-style bridge on the south. As of 2011, a US$29 million project to improve Marquette Park was underway, funded by a grant from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority. Begun in 2009, the project was the first capital improvement to Marquette Park since 1931.
Two buildings in Miller Beach are on the National Register of Historic Places. The old Miller Town Hall, built in 1911, was added to the Register in 1978. The Chanute Aquatorium in Marquette Park is a Classical Revival structure on the lakefront, designed by noted Prairie School architect George W. Maher. It was added to the Register in 1994. The Marquette Park Pavilion, a fieldhouse also built by Maher, is located in Marquette Park. Other historic buildings, including churches and schools, are found throughout the neighborhood.
The residential portion of Miller Beach north of the downtown is surrounded on all sides by the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Thousands of visitors flock to Miller each year to enjoy hiking the dune trails, birdwatching, water sports and fishing on Lake Michigan or to visit the beaches and National Park during the summer. Beach front properties in Miller are also available for rent during the summer, many of which provide breathtaking views of the magnificent Chicago skyline contrasted against the shimmering waters of Lake Michigan. During the winter months, activity in Miller slows considerably; however the hills, dunes and backwoods trails provide for great hiking, sledding, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing.
Numerous festivals are held in Miller through the year, including the South Shore Air Show at Marquette Park. The biweekly farmer's market also functions as a sort of community fair, with information booths from groups such as the Miller Historical Society. In 2011, Miller was the site of the only gay pride parade in Northwest Indiana. Called "Northwest Indiana Rainbow Days," the annual parade has been held in Gary since 2006.
Boating and kayaking are popular forms of recreation in the Miller Beach area. A public marina is located a short distance to the east in Portage. The Lake Michigan Water Trail, a water trail that runs from Chicago and New Buffalo and includes the shoreline of Miller Beach, was dedicated in June 2011.
Public schooling in Gary is provided by the Gary Community School Corporation. Public elementary schools in Miller Beach include Marquette Elementary, near Marquette Park, and Banneker Elementary near Long Lake. The neighborhood's public secondary schools include Wirt Emerson VPA, located at the former site of William A. Wirt High School near Marquette Park. Wirt Emerson is a magnet school for the visual and performing arts, serving grades 6-12. It originally opened in the former Emerson High School near downtown Gary in 1982, moving to its present location in 2009.
Charter schools in Miller Beach include KIPP: Lead College Prep Charter School and the Charter School of the Dunes, located adjacent to the Lake Street Beach. Like all Gary Charter Schools, they are sponsored by Ball State University. In addition, a private religious school is operated by Christ Baptist Church in the Glen Ryan area; another private school is located in Aetna. The area is also served by the Roman Catholic schools of the Gary diocese, but as of 2011 there were no Catholic schools in Miller Beach or anywhere else in Gary.
Nearby institutions of higher learning include Indiana University Northwest in Gary's Glen Park neighborhood, Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, and Valparaiso University in Valparaiso. There are no colleges or universities within Miller Beach itself. The 2005-2009 American Community Survey found that approximately 28% of Miller Beach residents had a bachelor's degree or higher.
The Paul Douglas Center for Environmental Education provides environmental education to residents and visitors in Miller Beach. Operated by the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the Douglas Center bears the name of Senator Paul Douglas, who spearheaded the National Lakeshore's creation in the 1960s. Numerous cheduled lectures, classes and workshops are held there each year. The trails around the Douglas Center provide a self-guided nature tour.
Downtown Miller is home to the South Shore Centre for the Arts, located in the building once occupied by the Miller School. The South Shore Centre is home to the South Shore Dance Alliance, a "pre-professional" contemporary dance company drawing members from throughout Northwest Indiana and performing throughout the Chicago area. In addition, the South Shore Centre provides classes for the general public in dance, piano, voice, acting, self-defense and fitness.
Additional resources for community education are also provided by the Carter G. Woodson branch of the Gary Public Library, a 13,378-square-foot facility located in Miller's downtown business district. The Woodson branch was opened in 1991, but Miller has had a public library since the early 20th century.
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