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Belmont Beach events ‘shine a positive light’ on west side

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When Tedd Hardy began the Belmont Beach Project in May, he hoped the space would serve as a hotbed for community events, as it had in the past. Now, with a calendar full of events ranging from “Sunday Fundays” to movie nights, Hardy is seeing his vision come to life.

On Sept. 19, the Belmont Beach Project will host its third “Sunday Funday,” from noon to 5 p.m. Visitors can participate in a community forum, followed by games including community chess.

“The Belmont Beach Project is very important, as this type of development will bring awareness to the community and shine a positive light on the progress being made on the westside of Indianapolis,” Hardy, community ambassador for the Central Indiana Community Foundation, said.

Belmont Beach was a popular spot for African Americans in Indianapolis during the 1930s. (Photo from the Recorder archives)

Supported with a grant from Lilly Endowment, the Belmont Beach Project reimagined what was once the only spot on the city’s west side where Black residents could swim. Initially, Belmont Beach wasn’t segregated. When it became clear that water in the Emrichsville Dam at Belmont Beach — a section of the White River — was too polluted from companies dumping industrial chemicals and slaughterhouse waste, city officials named the Haughville beach a Black-only beach.

Historian Paul Mullins called the beach the “epitome of environmental racism — Black residents were only allowed to be in water deemed too degraded to be of use to white residents.”

Despite dangerous water conditions, Black families on the westside often gathered at Belmont to swim and have picnics.

While you can’t swim at Belmont Beach today, the temporary pop-up park has provided visitors with entertainment and a reminder of what Belmont Beach used to be for the Black community in Indianapolis.

Events — including sports, movie nights and concerts — will take place through Oct. 31. In November, materials that were used to build the park and staging will be repurposed for other events and programs in the community. Though the project is a temporary pop-up site, Hardy hopes it leads to more development in the Haughville area.

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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