White River Vision Plan presented to public, action plan to be presented in May

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Members of the public heard more about the White River Vision Plan at a public meeting Jan. 29 at Conner Prairie.

Conner Prairie President and CEO Norman Burns opened the meeting by explaining that Conner Prairie was excited to be a stakeholder in the vision plan, especially since the museum had launched a comprehensive planning process on the White River in early 2017.

“Conner Prairie owns 1,046 acres of land, and for 3.3 miles of the White River, we have frontage on both sides,” he said. “We have significant property, significant river frontage and we are creating a comprehensive site master plan over the next couple of decades to see what are the best ways to use our resources. We want to look at the river as a resource and the land as a resource.” 

Gina Ford, principal and co-founder of Agency Landscape and Planning, and Rhiannon Sinclair, project manager, presented on the group’s plans for the 58-mile river.

“It’s important to note this is an extraordinarily visionary opportunity for really a national park-scaled, open-space system along your White River,” Ford said. “It’s a beautiful landscape as it exists today, and we can see it becoming much more soon — much more alive with wildlife and people and much more connected. The big picture here is really just rediscovering this incredible asset that has been here long before us and will be here long after us.”

Sinclair presented on nine principles that will guide how the river is improved in the future.

“These guiding principles have been under way since the beginning,” Sinclair said. “They were pulled together by your ideas about types of places you want to see, ideas for recreation, ideas for activation as well as concerns about the climate, concerns about land ownership and land uses moving forward. All of these are connected through these guiding principles.”

A use of the White River in Strawtown Koteewi Park may include bison grazing. (Submitted renderings)

The guiding principles are:

  • Restore and adapt: How to preserve the wildlife corridors and make the river more free-flowing.
  • Stewarding river health: Water quality and promoting a healthy waterway. 
  • Increasing year-round activities: Offering open spaces and programming along the river all year long.
  • Draw people to the river: Maximize bike and pedestrian connections, increase river access and foster a regional network of trails and water access.
  • Build on the river’s stories: Layering history and heritage with arts, culture and environment.
  • Build regional economic strength and community identity: Create gathering places to attract all sorts of people.
  • Partner across boundaries: Collaboratively manage the river and create efficient operations and sustainable governance.
  • Preserve places for everyone: Celebrate the diversity of the region’s communities and provide a mix of housing options along the river.
  • Honor ownership and use patterns: Balance community sentiments with long-term aspirations.

A use of the White River in Noblesville may be offering yoga near the river.

Along with the guiding principles, the presentation revealed how the river is divided into six main segments: Strawtown Koteewi Park; Noblesville; Conner Prairie; Clearwater at I-465; Broad Ripple; and Emrichsville and Southwestway Park. Some of the Hamilton County proposals include bison grazing at Strawtown Koteewi Park, yoga along the river in Noblesville and marshes and agility courses along the river in Conner Prairie.

Ford called the project “generational,” meaning some plans may take 50 years to implement along the river.

“The last phase of planning is to look at a roadmap and determine things like (what will happen in) the first year, the first five years and the first 10 years,” Ford said. “Funding and phasing will be included in the action document.”

For more, visit mywhiteriver.com.

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