The Portage Riverwalk is crumbling due to erosion. Whether it gets fixed is 'all about money.'

Most of the beach at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk has been lost to erosion. In the background is a circular observation deck that collapsed in January. The $16 million park opened in 2009.

A few beachgoers basked in the sun on a slender ribbon of sand last week at the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk.

To get there, they had to navigate a narrow path on a sand ridge above a rocky stretch that once was a popular beach.

“We enjoy what we have. It’s our little island,” said Darla Frizzell, of Portage.

Frizzell and her friends Kandi Gutierrez, of Portage, and Victoria Brant, of Munster, have been coming to the beach since 2010. They celebrated Brant’s birthday there last week.

For visitors to return and swim, the young park needs a lifeline.

Opened in 2009 along the western edge of Burns Ditch and Lake Michigan as a partnership between the city of Portage and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk was heralded as a lakefront restoration poster child and an example of regional cooperation.

Part of U.S. Rep. Peter J. Visclosky’s Marquette Plan to rejuvenate Northwest Indiana shorelines, the Portage park came together on a former steel mill waste site with $16 million in funding from the Regional Development Authority, and state and federal agencies.

In 2013, Lake Michigan waters were at a record low of 576 feet, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. Just three years later, they reached 580 feet, two feet short of the record high in 1986.

In 2014, a relentless Halloween storm nearly devoured the park’s beach. It triggered the closing of the handicapped ramp access to the beach. Storms and erosion also collapsed stairs that led to the Riverwalk. Read full article.