Reservoir? Community Center? Airfield?
Writer & Photographer / Rick Ramirez
As more and more people move into the unincorporated area of White River Township, how will our community change to keep up with growth? The area is well known for its schools, great homes and low property taxes. Sounds good, I know. That’s why I moved here. However, growing pains are constant. More homes and businesses will certainly pop up, but if you had a say, what would you like to see in this great community? What are the possibilities of “Center Grove?”
With a population well over 30,000 in the township, a community center and swimming pool would benefit our residents. The Gathering Place and Community Life Center have great activities but has neither a pool nor much to offer outdoors. When Greenwood opens its water park later this year that will mainly serve as a pool for residents of White River Township. However, a massive commercial complex like that isn’t ideal for everyone.
A community center with fitness and recreational activities can be built into a long-term plan with a swimming pool. Fitness and recreation are one of the few things to do in Center Grove. Did you ever notice how packed the parking lot is at The Gathering Place or LA Fitness? Because our area has few parks, sidewalks, trails and streetlights, there isn’t much to do outdoors. Fitness trainer and long-time resident Pam Mroz wants that to change. “We need more sidewalks, running and biking trails like the Monon Trail,” said Mroz. A community center with some winding trails would help those activities be carried out more safely instead of using traffic-congested streets. Maybe a hill for sledding would fit nicely as well. Independence Park does offer a short outdoor trail. However, parking is very limited there. Some neighborhoods are also developing walking/biking paths, but they aren’t easily accessible to the general population.
Ron Rose believes the time is right for more recreational spots. Rose moved his family to White River Township in 1996 for the schools and quality of life. Maintaining or improving that quality of life is dependent on managing growth. “It would be good to have a community center with indoor/outdoor use, including trails,” said Rose. As owner of Indiana Realty Pros, Rose prides himself on knowing, finding what clients want and need. Many want more green-space.
Mike Duke also knows quite a bit about trends in our community. A builder of custom homes and neighborhoods, Duke believes growth in the township will eventually explode south of the intersection at Whiteland and Morgantown Roads. “A community center would be beneficial for residents and future development,” said Duke. Once sewers are put in south of Whiteland Road, that area will boom. I also believe the area south of Whiteland Road along State Road 135 will fill in quickly,” said Duke, as he surveyed a map of the area.
Since White River Township isn’t part of a city or town, building a community center would be challenging. However, with the right people and focus, it can be done with grants, paid memberships, daily entrance fees, sponsorships, donations and events. Can you see the possibilities?
Is it possible do we have the space for a recreational lake/reservoir? Because Indianapolis does not have a major, natural water source, reservoirs such as Geist and Eagle Creek were constructed mainly to hold water reserves. However, they also serve as places of recreation including boating and fishing. Lots of space in White River Township is undeveloped because it lies in a floodplain, especially the area just west of State Road 37. Should that space be left as is or should we pursue a reservoir? IMI, Irving Materials Inc., operates a rock quarry just west of Smith Valley Road and SR 37. When they are done with it, the company is required to return the pit as close to a natural state as possible. However, County planners say it will likely just be filled with water.“The IMI gravel pit will become a large lake or small reservoir. It’s highly unlikely a major reservoir would be constructed there because of the limited space between the White River and SR 37,” explained Allen Kirk, Johnson County Planning Engineer. “In order to construct a large reservoir or spillway, a massive levee system or dam would have to be put in place to contain the White River to the west. But in its’ current state, that gravel pit area would not be big enough to alleviate flooding, especially in a 100-year storm,” Kirk added.
Could the quarry simply be turned into a recreational lake for residents? The area is very suitable for recreation use including parks and trails,” said Kirk. “But any new buildings constructed would have to be raised to an elevation at the federal and state 100-year flood level requirement.” If no buildings were constructed and the lake only had a boat ramp and banks created for fishing, the possibility of a recreational lake/reservoir is there.
IMI’s Real Estate Officer Dan Butler says he’s not sure how long the company will continue to operate their quarries in the area. “It’s too soon to tell. The market will dictate how fast we will mine there and how long before we leave those sites,” said Butler. When asked if IMI would consider turning the property over to local government for recreational use after mining is complete, Butler said their sales team is considering long-term use. However, they could not specify if the property would ever be donated to the community. Just think of the great public relations and advertising IMI would receive if they did donate the property.
Just north of that location is another property with potential for recreation. Riverdale Farms owns dozens of acres there with a dormant rock quarry. Much of it lies within the flood plain and ‘could’ be turned into a recreational lake. The Sutton family, who owns Riverdale Farms, says the mining lease is up in about four years. “No developers have contacted us about the property,” said Butch Sutton. “It’s all up in the air until Interstate 69 comes this way. But we’d be willing to listen to any developers who wanted to lease or purchase the property for recreational uses,” Sutton added. Maybe the right sponsor will make a splash in that area and bring about a large-scale, outdoor recreational site to this community.
If you had your say, what would you like to see developed along State Road 37, as it becomes I-69? The Indiana Department of Transportation proposed interstate exits at County Line Road, Smith Valley Road and State Road 44. Ron Rose expects the usual combination of restaurants and gas stations to pop up, but he hopes strategic planning drives in a healthy balance of businesses. “I’d like a mix of retail and office complexes with high-paying jobs. That would serve our residents and bolster our tax-base,” said Rose.
Such a development is already underway at the northeast corner of SR 37 and Fairview Road. County planners approved construction of the CVS Pharmacy there a few years back even though plans for I-69 were uncertain. That could mean CVS would have to relocate if the highway project runs over their property. Vacant land behind CVS is currently marketed for retail space and a proposed medical complex.
I-69 plans for Johnson County are not complete. “INDOT will finalize a scope for section six between Martinsville and Indianapolis through an environmental impact statement,” said INDOT Spokesman Will Wingfield. “Specifics regarding drainage, retention ponds, etc., have not been finalized.” Once the plans are final, developers will have a better idea of what land will be taken for the interstate and how adjacent property will be affected.
Talks about linking Smith Valley Road to Morgan County with a bridge over the White River have gone on for decades. Mike Duke says a bridge would have a large impact. “If you put a bridge there, Center Grove and Greenwood businesses would benefit from Morgan County residents who currently travel north to Plainfield retail sites to spend their money,” said Duke. The big question that remains, is how many developers will try to buy land in the flood plain and raise it so they can build business near these massive corridors? Imagine the changing landscape after so many years of White River Township serving as a bedroom community.
Now that I really have you thinking, what if I told you plans to build an airstrip in our community are out there. The plans are old and outdated but with a lot of hard work, anything is possible. In the 1990s, an enthusiastic group of pilots attempted to launch a small airstrip for private planes. Not sure where to put it, the group approached Johnson County planning officials for help. The project never got off the ground, quickly running into turbulence from residents, who fought it vigorously. Dave Dusak was one of the pilots who tried to bring an airstrip to White River Township. “I almost moved my plane to an airpark in the Chicago area but I turned down a good offer there because I thought we were going to get this one going,” Dusak recalled. Dusak, a resident of White River Township since 1989, hangars his plane at the airport in Greenwood. He still loves talking about the possibilities of a new airfield. “My friend Dale Bronson put in a small grass airstrip on his property several miles southwest of Bargersville. But it’s my understanding that he cannot sell it and transportation officials want it out of service after Bronson passes away,” said Dusak.
I know what you are thinking. Why the need for another airstrip with Greenwood’s airport so close? Pilots like the idea of an airpark in their backyard. It could be a small grass strip with their homes around it, or it could be something similar that attracts businesses. There is a private airpark with adjacent homes near Martinsville. Franklin Flying Field also has a few residential homes and the space for more near its airstrip. Therefore, it’s not a question of whether we need another landing strip, but when and where will flying enthusiasts build their dream airpark. State and federal agencies have yet to clear another local airstrip for take-off, but Hoosier aviators know the sky is the limit.
So there you have it! A community, bordering a major U.S. city, with a new interstate on the way, is going to look a lot different in just a few years. Will the township only fill in with houses and apartments, or will managed growth expand on the quality of life we’ve worked hard for years to maintain?
In 2004, Rick launched Thomas Daniel Media. The company, named after his son, offers services in video production, marketing, advertising, public relations, and websites. Thomas Daniel Media currently produces the TV series Indiana Weekend, hosted by former Miss America Katie Stam.