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Gary is a city in the county of Lake, Indiana. Situated adjacent to the Indiana Dunes National Park and bordering the southern part of Lake Michigan, it is 25 miles from downtown Chicago, Illinois. The city was founded by the United States Steel Corporation in 1906 as the home of Gary Works, its new plant. It was named after the founding chairman of the corporation, lawyer Elbert Henry Gary. Because of the prominent steel industry in Gary, the city benefited from the many job opportunities and grew rapidly. By the 1930s, its diverse population has exceeded 100,000 people making it the fifth-largest city in the state. During the Great Migration, many African American migrants relocated to Gary, making it an even more diverse city.
However, Gary went into a decline in the 1960s as the overseas steel industry became more competitive. When white flight occurred in the 1970s, it left the city with the highest percentage of African Americans in the nation for several decades. In 1972, the ground0breaking National Black Political Convention was hosted in Gary. The city also had one of the first African American mayors, Richard G. Hatcher, in the U.S.
In 2013, around one-third of the homes in the area were unoccupied and abandoned. Although the city has tried to redevelop, it now faces decaying infrastructure and unemployment like many other Rust Belt cities that depended solely on the steel industry. As of 2019, the city has a population of 74,789 and is the ninth-largest city in the state. Besides its many large steel mills, the city is known for being the birthplace of the Jackson family, or the "First Family of Soul."
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Indiana Dunes National Park is located to the east of the city of Gary. Managed by the U.S. National Park Service, it was authorized by Congress in 1966 as a national lakeshore and in 2019 as a national park. The 61st United States national park encompasses 15 miles of the southern shore of Lake Michigan and offers a beautiful sandy beach, rugged dunes, tranquil wetlands and quest forests. It is home to over 1,100 native plant species, world-class birding and a diversity of habitats.
For those living in or visiting Gary, the West Beach entrance lies within the city. There is a $6 standard entry fee per vehicle. The Dunewood Campground standard entry fee is $25 for one campsite.
Marquette Park is a municipal park on North Grand Boulevard. Originally known as Lake Front Park, it is situated within the Miller Beach community that was once the Town of Miller before it was annexed by Gary in 1918. The park is surrounded by the Indiana Dunes National Park and feature 1.4 miles of white sand Lake Michigan beaches, high sand dunes, inland ponds, a lagoon, wetlands, and an indigenous oak savanna. It also offers the Gary Bathing Beach Aquatorium, the Octave Chanute museum, and the Marquette Park Pavilion available for special events and rentals.
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