NOBLESVILLE - The Noblesville Parks Board says it will not renew its lease with Nickel Plate rail line operator Indiana Transportation Museum Inc. The contract ends in March and ITM will be required to turn the premises back over to the city.

ITM, which has operated the route and trains since the early 1960s, has been the focus of several state investigations and a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency inspection for environmental issues at its Noblesville site. The examinations have turned up multiple violations and Mayor John Ditslear says "the ITM has not shown good stewardship with the resources entrusted to them for more than fifty years. The city is excited to be working with the Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad to continue the city's railroad history and bring the trains back to Forest Park as a safe, clean and fun tourist attraction that connects Noblesville with our neighbors in northern Hamilton County."

In a statement, ITM President John McNichols said news of the city board's decision came via email Wednesday morning and that the organization is "profoundly disappointed but not surprised." He adds ITM wasn't consulted about not renewing the lease. "This is another example of the kind of harassment the Indiana Transportation Museum has dealt with for the past several years. We have worked diligently with Noblesville town environmental experts and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and although there were issues not unlike you'd find in a typical manufacturing environment, the issues certainly never reached the levels of concern as characterized by the early WRTV reports or the city and county," McNichols said. "Our name is the Indiana Transportation Museum, not the Noblesville or Hamilton County Transportation Museum and we know we have options for finding a new home where citizens and community leaders appreciate the history, legacy, tourism and economic development that the Indiana Transportation Museum brings. In the long term we will be interested in the reactions of Hamilton County voters in future elections."

In July, Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad was ranked second overall by a Hoosier Heritage Port Authority committee out of five groups vying to serve as operator of the Nickel Plate. The Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad was awarded the contract soon after and began working toward plans to launch the Nickel Plate Express between Atlanta and Arcadia next year. The city of Noblesville says it is working with Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad to include Forest Park in Noblesville as "a major stop" along the route in 2019.

You can connect to more about the cleanup and actions taken involving ITM and Forest Park by clicking here.