US

Conservationists riled by private deal to develop parkland near Indiana's scenic dunes

  • In this Aug. 10, 2015, photo, visitors relax at The Dunes State Park pavilion beach front in Chesterton, Ind. A deal with investors to privatize and refurbish the pavilion, an aging-yet-iconic structure with sweeping views of Lake Michigan, is raising questions about the privatization of public resources. (AP Photo/Christian K. Lee)

    In this Aug. 10, 2015, photo, visitors relax at The Dunes State Park pavilion beach front in Chesterton, Ind. A deal with investors to privatize and refurbish the pavilion, an aging-yet-iconic structure with sweeping views of Lake Michigan, is raising questions about the privatization of public resources. (AP Photo/Christian K. Lee)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Aug. 10, 2015, photo, construction fencing surrounds the Dunes State Park pavilion in Chesterton, Ind. A deal with investors to privatize and refurbish the pavilion, an aging-yet-iconic structure with sweeping views of Lake Michigan, is raising questions about the privatization of public resources. (AP Photo/Christian K. Lee)

    In this Aug. 10, 2015, photo, construction fencing surrounds the Dunes State Park pavilion in Chesterton, Ind. A deal with investors to privatize and refurbish the pavilion, an aging-yet-iconic structure with sweeping views of Lake Michigan, is raising questions about the privatization of public resources. (AP Photo/Christian K. Lee)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Aug. 10, 2015, photo, a construction sign is seen outside the Dunes State Park pavilion in Chesterton, Ind. A deal with investors to privatize and refurbish the pavilion, an aging-yet-iconic structure with sweeping views of Lake Michigan, is raising questions about the privatization of public resources. (AP Photo/Christian K. Lee)

    In this Aug. 10, 2015, photo, a construction sign is seen outside the Dunes State Park pavilion in Chesterton, Ind. A deal with investors to privatize and refurbish the pavilion, an aging-yet-iconic structure with sweeping views of Lake Michigan, is raising questions about the privatization of public resources. (AP Photo/Christian K. Lee)  (The Associated Press)

A plan allowing a politically connected developer to operate restaurants, a rooftop bar and a banquet hall in the heart of Indiana Dunes State Park is drawing scrutiny from conservationists and some legal experts.

Under the plan, Chuck Williams, a state Republican Party official and financial backer of GOP causes, will control the park's amenities for decades to come.

Opponents say that amounts to a suspicious sell-off of public land that should be free of commercials interests. And they question whether the state is getting a good deal.

The Department of Natural Resources, which oversees the park, and a spokeswoman for Williams' development group say political connections played no role.

The department did acknowledge working behind the scenes on the project with Williams nearly two years before it became public.