Group Blasts Reservoir Proposal, Pitches Greenway

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The Hoosier Environmental Council is pushing for the creation of a "linear park" to traverse 2,000 acres of land currently eyed for the proposed Mounds Reservoir in Madison and Delaware counties. The group says the Mounds Greenway would increase prosperity in the region, standing in "stark contrast" to the reservoir, which it says would cause "dramatic environmental damage." March 20, 2015

News Release

ANDERSON, Ind. - The Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana's largest statewide environmental policy organization, today renewed its call for establishment of the Mounds Greenway. The organization's recommended plan would conserve the West Fork White River and provide sustainable economic opportunities for Anderson, Muncie and the communities in between. The Mounds Greenway would be a linear park that follows the river, protecting over 2,000 acres of forests and wetlands. A key feature of the Greenway would be a hiking and biking trail that runs the entire length of the corridor. In addition to trail hiking and biking, visitors would be able to enjoy a variety of recreational opportunities, including camping, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, picnicking, wildlife observation and nature photography.

"The core principles of the Greenway Plan are protection of the free-flowing White River and its adjacent riverside lands, and creating a premier regional recreation destination," noted Tim Maloney, senior policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council. "Our plan leaves intact for all Hoosiers, now and in the future, Mounds State Park and the Mounds Fen Nature Preserve."

Other benefits of the Mounds Greenway include:

-Protecting clean water for Hoosiers by conserving critical floodplain forests that reduce sediment and other runoff entering the river. Protection and restoration of wetlands will help filter polluted runoff before it reaches the river.

-Providing groundwater recharge areas that maintain a healthy aquifer and regional water supply.

-Ensuring priceless prehistoric sites, like the 2000-year-old Adena and Hopewell Mounds in Mounds State Park, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, continue to be protected.

Best practices for economic development strategies recommend that communities invest in quality of life and quality of place amenities as part of a successful economic development strategy. In fact, a manufacturing strategy* for the Anderson, Muncie and New Castle region adopted last fall, recommends a plan conceptually very similar to the Mounds Greenway. The study notes that “Natural amenities [e.g. the White River] add to the sense of place and represent an untapped opportunity for enhancing the region."

It recommends in Key Initiative 6-1: Create a Regional Greenspace and Water Trail Network Plan, stating, "Why are we targeting a greenspace/trail network as part of a manufacturing strategy? It comes back to offering the quality of life amenities that employers and employees demand. This long-range project would connect our existing trails and greenspace amenities, including the Cardinal Greenway - Indiana's longest paved trail - to offer a unique biking and hiking amenity for residents of our region as well as a destination attracting people from across the greater Indianapolis area."

The Mounds Greenway stands in stark contrast with the proposed Mounds reservoir. "The Greenway would increase prosperity, in a sustainable way, for this region, by protecting high quality community resources, rather than destroying them as proposed with the Mounds reservoir," said Maloney. "Adding trails or other recreational features to the reservoir plan does not come close to compensating for the dramatic environmental damage that would result from damming the White River and flooding the river valley. What's more, mitigation plans for the lake simply cannot replace the loss of 7 or more miles of a high quality, natural stream, or a unique natural community like the Mounds Fen."

Nor has the cost of forest and wetland mitigation been accurately estimated. The Ball State University Faculty review of the Mounds reservoir Phase II report concludes that "...the cost estimate is more than $56 million beneath the requirements."

Among its other virtues, the Mounds Greenway would be affordable, could be completed more quickly, and does not rely on condemnation of private property.

"We strongly support Heart of the River's call for Mounds reservoir planning to be halted, and urge residents and local businesses to work with us on a sustainable alternative," stated Maloney.

*Anderson, Muncie and New Castle Economic Vision and Manufacturing Strategic Plan, October 2014, http://www.ecirpd.org/investing-in-manufacturing-communities-partnership/

Complete information on the Mounds Greenway and the list of supporting organizations can be found at www.moundsgreenway.org.

About Hoosier Environmental Council

Founded thirty years ago, the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) is the largest statewide environmental policy organization in Indiana. HEC aims to set a new path for Indiana, embracing practices and policies that dramatically reduce the footprint of transportation, industry, commerce, and agriculture on the environment. Visit hecweb.org for more information. You can follow HEC's activities on Twitter: @hec_ed, and on Facebook at facebook.com/hecweb.

Source: The Hoosier Environmental Council