The Noblesville City Council is expected to vote Tuesday to determine if a controversial plan to dig a gravel pit next to Potter’s Bridge Park will move forward or if local opposition to the project will thwart the project.
Noblesville-based Beaver Materials earlier this year purchased 50 acres of farmland adjacent to the 66-acre park near Allisonville Road and Cumberland Road.
If the plan is approved, the company would immediately donate 10 acres of land to the Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Department.
Beaver Materials would spend five years removing gravel from the remaining 40 acres—down from the 10 years that was originally proposed and dropped in 2020 following public opposition.
After five years, the land would be given to the county parks department and the pit would be turned into a lake.
Other aspects of the plan for Potter’s Bridge Park—which would be completed in five stages—include three miles of trails, a canoe and kayak launch, three picnic shelters, a nature art trail and a parking lot.
Beaver Materials also included a plans for up to 27 townhouses to be built along Allisonville Road when the company resubmitted its proposal in April to the Noblesville Plan Commission.
Potter’s Bridge Park was established after the Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Department in 1972 purchased the covered bridge that gives the park its name. The 151-year-old structure built during 1870 and 1871 is the last remaining covered bridge in the county. It was restored in 1999.
The park, which contains 3-1/4 miles of the White River Greenway Trail, grew in 1995 after the parks department purchased 30 acres from Emily Morrison and Family, according to the department’s website.
Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Department Director Chris Stice told the Noblesville City Council on June 14 that “opportunities like [the Beaver Materials plan] don’t land at our doorstep.”
Stice added that density is an issue at Potter’s Bridge Park, and that the number of people canoeing at the park has increased from 7,000 to more than 21,000 annually over the past two years.
“We need more park land as we continue to develop our community,” he said.
Beaver Materials owner Chris Beaver also told the Noblesville City Council that the amount of sand and gravel at the site is not enough to justify the cost to extract it, but he views the land donation, valued at $12 million, to be a gift to the city.
However, Noblesville residents have spent months organizing against the proposal, which the Plan Commission sent back to the City Council on May 16 with an unfavorable recommendation following a 7-3 vote.
People have demonstrated outside Noblesville City Hall and the Hamilton County Government and Judicial Center. Yard signs reading, “Don’t Leave it to Beaver” sit next to mailboxes leading to the park along Allisonville Road. More than 1,000 people signed a petition against the project.
Rachael Raymer, a spokesperson for Don’t Leave it to Beaver, the group that first organized in 2020 when Beaver Materials released its initial plans, told IBJ that residents are worried about the effects the gravel pit operation would have on the city’s drinking water and how the project would impact the city’s future.
“It’s not just this five-plus year period of time when the drinking water is at risk,” Raymer said. “It’s everything afterwards for decades.”
Letters submitted by residents to the city also raise concerns about pollution, dust from gravel extraction and increased traffic caused by work trucks moving in and out of the area.
The Hoosier Environmental Council also came out against the project, saying in public comments to the Noblesville Plan Commission that, “Mining aggregate in the floodplain will promote habitat loss and degrade the White River, impacting the existing Potter’s Bridge Park and the surrounding natural areas.”
To approve the gravel pit, the Noblesville City Council would need to change zoning in the area from residential to industrial. Raymer said that “sets a terrible precedent for the rest of the city.”
“All of the concerns get overshadowed and sometimes it unfortunately comes across as a ‘NIMBY’ operation even though 30% of the Noblesville residents that have signed the petition are from a completely different ZIP code from a project site,” Raymer said.
Raymer and others also questioned the need for a lake so close to the White River. They don’t view the project as a short-term pain for a long-term gain.
“You know, the ends do not justify the means,” Raymer said, “because the ends are going to last forever.”