Rolling with the tide

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Friends of the White River advocate for water quality, utility

Kevin Hardie

As summer rushes to greet Fishers residents, one organization protects the White River so everyone can enjoy the current’s rush.

Friends of the White River is a not-for-profit organization based in Indianapolis, with members spread out all over the regions the river snakes through.

Its mission: to protect, preserve and enhance the experience every Hoosier gets out of a defining natural resource.

The river’s best friend

Friends of the White River has enjoyed almost 30 years of outdoor escapades on the waterway.

What started as a group brought together by recreation on the river and interest in catch-and-release programs evolved into the organization’s modern philosophy of discovering everything the river has to offer.

“The challenge is to continue to develop ways that it [the White River]can be better utilized with more visible areas and connectivity of the community,” said Kevin Hardie, executive director of Friends of the White River.

Hardie has been with the group every step of the way – from its early days in 1985 to the 1999 environmental disaster that killed nearly 5 million fish, and now, the quiet days after the last few dollars of the resulting multi-million dollar lawsuit against the polluter, Guide Corp. and its affiliates, are spent.

Hardie, having found something more than a favorite spot to fish, is invested in the river and the organization.

His wedding was at the Indy Art Center, and instead of climbing into a limousine with the bride, they climbed into a canoe and pushed off the shores of the White River, which runs behind the center’s grounds.

Having served as a member and as an officer, Hardie devotes his time to managing the not-for-profit. The number of active members fluctuates each year, but Hardie said approximately 1,000 people are contacted, and 200 to 400 actually participate in annual activities.

Protecting a natural resource

“I think we owe it to ourselves and future generations to be aware that this is an irreplaceable resource,” Hardie said.

Even though motorists cross the bridges coming and going from Fishers and Carmel every day, they might not realize what they see out their windows.

They’re crossing over a small section of a 350-mile-long section of the White River, 60 percent of Indianapolis residents’ drinking water, an outdoor recreational facility, a resource for Fishers Waste Management and other resources, according to Hardie.

With so much utility, who is responsible for keeping the river safe?

“I think we all are,” Hardie said. “It’s a combination of individual actions and governmental process that all make the difference.”

Hardie said the 1999 disaster that impacted the river from Anderson to Indy sensitized the government on how important the river is to the region and how outraged Hoosiers could be about its misuse.

From there it is up to residents and businesses to be conscious of the impact their actions hold – from not picking up after a pet to managing crop fertilizers and pesticides.

“I think the biggest danger [to the river’s quality]would be unawareness of what a significant natural resource it is,” he said.

Responsibility and recreation

After being advocates for the river’s quality and taking interest in how the land develops around it for nearly three decades, Friends of the White River looks forward to educating people about the river as well as its upkeep.

At the close of the summer, Friends of the White River will take part in a cleanup with various municipalities, including Fishers.

In the meantime, education about the river is key for the group, as it helps create a sense of stewardship.

“Discover it,” Hardie said. “Take a day. Identify some spots to visit – once you do, you’ll keep coming back.

Events to look out for:

-Town of Fishers organizing White River clean-up second weekend of September

-A White River Festival will be announced midsummer

Online Resources:

-Maps can be found at friendsofthewhiteriver.org

 

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