Living in the Dunes


2018 Honor Award


Save the Dunes



Landscape Architects

Project Details

A Homeowner’s Guide to Landscaping in Indiana’s Dune Communities

The Indiana dune landscape represents at least four major successive stages of Lake Michigan shorelines. The landscape includes 15,000 acres of open beaches, grass- and forest-covered dunes, oak savannas, swamps, bogs, marshes, prairies, rivers, and forests. Its intricate biology is globally unique and is one of the only places where examples of every type of natural community in the Chicagoland region can be found. From arctic bearberry to prickly pear cactus and southern dogwoods, the dunes’ biodiversity is extraordinary. Over 1,200 species of vascular plants and 400 species of wildlife can be found here.

Over the next millennia, the dunes will face a variety of challenges. Some of the major challenges include climate change, invasive plants, shoreline erosion, diminished water quality, and encroaching urbanization. If changes happen to our climate, the Indiana Dunes will be one of the first places to reflect these changes. These changes could include a shift in the migration patterns of mobile species, the possible extinction of some species, and change the timing of many natural processes from flower blooming to bird nesting. From a decline in wildlife habitat to suppression of native plants and wildlife, invasive species also have a significant impact on the dunes ecosystem.

In recognition of these facts, the client – a regional advocacy organization known as Save The Dunes – retained Hitchcock Design Group to develop a guide with the aim of providing the tools to help homeowners protect their part of the dune landscape. By working at this grass roots scale, the client sought to make a much larger impact at a systemic level. The approach included explaining how the dune ecosystem is unique, differentiating between invasive and native plants, and laying out some basic design responses to common residential-scale landscape problems. The result was an easy-to-use full color booklet filled with photos, illustrations, and text designed to walk a homeowner through the design process and create a home landscape using native plants and other best practices.

As the prime consultant, Hitchcock Design Group was responsible for leading the design team, managing the process, outreach to stakeholders and leading the preparation of the Guide. The design team included the landscape architect, a graphic designer and an ecologist. Stakeholder outreach included developing an advisory committee with the client that included representatives from thirteen different public and private interests that provided valuable, informative content and recommendations throughout the development of the booklet. Numerous conversations and group meetings were conducted throughout the process. During the preparation of the Guide, Hitchcock Design Group developed the majority of the text, created the illustrations – including the template garden designs – helped facilitate finding and securing photographs, and provided direction on the overall development of the graphic design.

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