Central Canal needs green space

April 6, 2009

Last May, IBJ's Jennifer Whitson reported on a submarine memorial proposed for the downtown Canal. The Indiana War Memorials Commission should be more selective in its proposals. A self-imposed moratorium might be appropriate, especially during our current fiscal crisis.

In a 2007 letter supporting federal funding for the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, the commission's executive director lamented that its Indianapolis memorials are "Indiana's best-kept secret" and suffer from "obscurity." Yet the city ranks as No. 2 in the nation in total number and total acreage of memorials that occupy prominent downtown real estate.

The commission should solicit community input and more carefully evaluate the impacts of its sometimes insensitive proposals. Four years ago, the commission proposed an inappropriate memorial for University Park. That plan was resisted by the Historic Landmarks Foundation, among others, and was later withdrawn. The memorial to the Indiana National Guard was ultimately installed in a local east-side cemetery.

The commission's proposal to build a USS Indianapolis submarine memorial on the east bank of the Canal just north of the existing USS Indianapolis (cruiser) National Memorial would unwisely occupy nearly the last piece of green space on the Canal. The mock hull with the sub's actual vertical "sail" structure would also overwhelm the site and setting, and might be viewed by some as inappropriate, due to its proximity to the cruiser memorial.

Mayor [Greg] Ballard, a former Marine, has apparently green-lighted the project, but without soliciting any community input. However, the requisite Regional Center review would provide for public input.

Green space is nearly gone on the downtown Canal. Let's try to preserve what little remains.


Clarke Kahlo

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