Leaders unveil plans for developing White River in Marion, Hamilton counties

The White River Vision Plan, unveiled Monday morning by community leaders from Marion and Hamilton counties, makes key development recommendations to seven "anchor areas" along the river.

The plan, the result of a year-long effort, was developed to guide decision-making over the next 30 years regarding growth and transformation opportunities along 58 miles of the river through Marion and Hamilton counties. The goal is to ensure a clean, accessible river corridor that provides recreational and cultural opportunities to residents.

The 222-page plan also suggests the creation of a government entity to "manage White River enhancements, programming and funding for various projects." That organization would work with local municipalities to collaborate on initiatives or new ideas for the river.

Every area of the river corridor is considered in the plan and organized into “river reach” zones. Ideas from those zones are expected to reflect "each community’s distinct character."

The plan includes site-specific recommendations from the seven anchor areas regarding commercial development, historic districts, cultural destinations and program opportunities. The plans makes recommendations for each of the anchor areas

Strawtown Koteewi Park: Build on the park’s existing master plan, focus on environmental health and historic interpretation, including a new trail from Potter’s Bridge Park to Cicero, a viewing tower and an expanded area for launching kayaks and canoes. Plans also call for removal of invasive plant species and the addition of historic signage and installations.

Downtown Noblesville: The plan says Noblesville’s downtown revitalization efforts would be helped by adding more riverfront links and increasing rivwer access, including more projects like the Riverwalk. It also encourages sustainable design practices, shadier streets and riverfront terraces.

Allisonville Stretch: Centered on Conner Prairie, this area focuses on community engagement to protect natural areas, support the existing Conner Prairie master plan and improve pedestrian crossings.

Oliver’s Crossing: This area, situated around Interstate 465, Oliver's Woods Nature Preserve and nearby retail destinations, is expected to use post-production quarry lands close to the river for flood storage and outdoor adventure activities. Also recommended are more riverfront landowner partnerships and additional trails to connect public open spaces.

Broad Ripple: The plan suggests reconnecting the area to its riverfront by relocating parking and using the planned Broad Ripple Riverwalk and trail. It also suggests looking into connecting 64th Street to Holliday Park. Recommendations call for protecting the historic character of residential neighborhoods and Broad Ripple’s commercial district. The plan supports early implementation of the planned boat launch, riverbank restoration, river walk and terrace river edge projects. It also recommends that artists and the Indianapolis Art Center create temporary or permanent art installations.

Downtown Indianapolis: The plan recommends building on the Riverside Park master plan and leveraging partnerships to redesign Emrichsville Dam for multi-functional environmental, water quality and recreational benefits for the neighboring near-west-side community.

Southwestway Park: The plan emphasizes environmental education at the southern boundary through grant funding and a ranger “outpost.” It creates a new entrance from Southport Road, establishes multiple river-access points and recommends a 10-year restoration and management program.

The plan was presented by Agency Landscape + Planning, the lead planners and architects on the project.

The firm collaborated with local and national experts, including Applied Ecological Services, Christopher B. Burke Engineering, David Rubin Land Collective and Ratio Architects.

The plan also outlines nine principles to guide decisions about the future of the river:

1. Restore and adapt
2. Steward river health
3. Increase year-round activities
4. Draw people to the river
5. Build on the river's stories
6. Build economic strength and identity
7. Preserve places for everyone
8. Honor ownership and use patterns
9. Partner across boundaries

Brenda Myers, president and CEO of Hamilton County Tourism Inc., said the plan is truly community-driven. More than 13,000 comments and ideas were collected from local residents.

She said presenting the final plan closes one phase of planning but opens another.

“The work is just starting,” she said.

The public can review and comment on the plan over the next 30 days.

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