The highly-anticipated plan to enhance nearly 60 miles of the White River in central Indiana has been unveiled. Officials say the White River Vision Plan provides a deep dive into a shared vision for the section of the river in Marion and Hamilton counties focusing on environmental and ecological health, equity, public safety and activation. Hamilton County Tourism Inc. Chief Executive Officer Brenda Myers says the goal of the project is to make the White River more prevalent in the eyes of central Indiana residents.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Myers said the developers are using nine principles as a framework for the project.

"They range from protecting wildlife and the environment to protecting ownership along the river. Those nine principles are really focused on making the river first and foremost important in our lives so that we care enough about it to take care of it. One of the things we heard loud and clear from residents is they want access to the river, they want the river to be cleaner, (and) they want us to protect the river. Striking a balance between the health of the river and use of the river I think will be critically important as we move forward."

The plan identifies seven "anchor areas" that will be a major focus of the project. They include commercial corridors, historic districts, cultural destinations and catalytic program opportunities along the 58-mile stretch of the white river. The plan offers recommendations for each area, including:

  • Strawtown Koteewi Park: Build on the park’s regional success and 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, invasive plant species removal, and historic signage and installations.
  • Downtown Noblesville: Support Noblesville’s downtown revitalization with new riverfront links, including the incorporation of existing elements and projects like the Riverwalk and increased or enhanced river access, and new ideas like sustainable design practices, shadier streets, and riverfront terraces. 
  • Allisonville Stretch: Centered on the asset of Conner Prairie, this area focuses on community engagement to protect natural areas, support the existing Conner Prairie’s master plan, and local collaboration to improve pedestrian crossings.
  • Oliver’s Crossing: Situated around I-465, Oliver’s Woods and surrounding retail destinations, this anchor district builds on the opportunity for nearby post-production quarry lands close to the river for flood storage and outdoor adventure activities programming, as well as recommendations to connect public open spaces in this stretch with trails and riverfront landowner partnerships.
  • Broad Ripple: The vision for this beloved canal district reconnects the area to its riverfront by relocating parking and connecting across the levee at 64th St. to Holliday Park via the planned Broad Ripple Riverwalk and trail. It protects the historic character of residential neighborhoods and Broad Ripple’s commercial district, helps with 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: Building on key opportunities like the recent Riverside Park master plan and current needs of the Emrichsville Dam, the plan leverages partnerships to redesign the dam for multi-functional environmental, water quality, and recreational benefits to the neighboring Near Westside community and guides sustainable development outside the floodplain.
  • Southwestway Park: At the plan’s southern boundary, this large ecological asset emphasizes environmental education through grant funding and a ranger “outpost,” creates a new entrance from Southport Road, establishes multiple new river access points and recommends a 10-year restoration and management program.

Myers says the effort has been a great collaboration between Marion and Hamilton counties.

"I think one of the things that this White River Vision Plan can do is also help establish come goals for other parts of the White River. The state has been wonderfully involved through a White River caucus and that White River caucus, we hope, can help expand some of the visioning of this part of the river to other parts of the White River."

Myers says organizers will spend the summer looking at the governance of the plan and how to move it forward. Once that is situated, she says the group will start prioritizing items in the plan in both counties.

Members of the public can view and comment on the full 222-page White River Vision Plan by clicking here.

As part of the unveiling, organizers will this week host a series of activities and events, which will continue Tuesday with river cleanup events both in Indianapolis and Hamilton County. You can view the full list of events by clicking here.

Myers says the developers are using nine principles as a framework for the project.