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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Fall Creek neighbors improving, enhancing and engaging along the waterway

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For more than 10 years, volunteers living near Fall Creek have been working to improve the waterway through Reconnecting to Our Waterways (ROW). Citizens Energy’s efforts to significantly reduce raw sewage overflows from 100-year-old combined sewers help a lot, but only gets this urban waterway so clean. Years of neglect, lawn chemicals, litter and oil running off from streets and parking lots and industrial pollution have all negatively impacted Fall Creek’s health.

The efforts of neighbors working alongside business and organizational partners is helping Fall Creek heal. From Millersville to the confluence where Fall Creek meets White River downtown, there are many ongoing activities that are making a positive impact on our waterways and the habitat (human and animal) who rely on our waterways for life and well-being. In fact, these waterway volunteers have been working with the Marion County Soil & Water Conservation District (MCSWCD) for over a year to update the long-term plan for Fall Creek improvements (i.e., the Lower Fall Creek Watershed Management Plan update or LFCWMP).

Here are just a few community-led activities that took place in 2021 and planned for this year to make the neighborhoods that line Fall Creek healthier, more beautiful and more vibrant.

The Fall Creek Place neighborhood has been removing harmful invasive honeysuckle for more than five years, opening up the viewshed of the creek, and reducing erosion caused by shallow-rooted invasive species. By partnering with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, they planted fruiting trees in its place to enhance the walking path through their neighborhood. Now, with a new grant from ROW supported by the Herbert Simon Family Foundation (HSFF), the neighborhood is continuing the invasive removal efforts, installing native plants and beneficial trees.

Millersville Valley at Fall Creek has also been working on removing invasive species and opening up their views to the waterway for several years, creating seating areas and tranquil spaces with sculptures and native plantings. The neighborhood has just been awarded a grant from ROW to help develop the Millersville Preserve Overlook to create an area of turf, limestone seats and native plants for neighbors to enjoy a quiet respite overlooking the creek. Millersville also completed a signage project earlier this year that helps brand the waterway spaces that are often missed as people drive near the intersections and over the bridges in their small business district. Those projects were funded in part through ROW’s subgrant program supported by the HSFF and Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF).

The Crosstown Neighborhood is also working to enhance spaces in the new Rev. Charles Williams Park (3242 Sutherland Ave.) where Indy Parks is exploring enhancements in the greenway spaces.

The Rev. Charles Williams Park Advisory Board is facilitating discussions on what amenities the neighborhood would like in this undeveloped park with support from local groups like Little Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.

The Fall Creek Committee also worked with ROW’s Ecology Committee to enhance an important urban park space. Barton Park (2334 N. Capitol Ave.) had some Fall Creek-adjacent spaces that had become overgrown and a common illegal dumping area for trash. ROW volunteers worked with the MCSWCD and Indianapolis Office of Land Stewardship to clean up the trash, remove the invasive overgrowth, plant beneficial and beautiful species, install a fence and more. Even as this year’s work is wrapping up, the volunteers are already planning to continue the Barton Park improvements in the new year.

“Green infrastructure provides a variety of environmental, social and economic benefits, improving water quality and beautifying neighborhoods through the use of deep-rooted native plants,” said John Hazlett, director of the MCSWCD. “These above-ground infrastructure investments improve drainage, help address flooding and provide opportunities for local employment through green infrastructure maintenance programs while providing habitat for pollinator plants.”

In August, ROW secured funding from NuGenesis Inc. (a Moorseville-based recycling company) to help install green infrastructure along Fall Creek. One early-action project to be installed in 2022 includes more drought-resistance, deep-rooted native plantings in Barton Park, as well as a planned rain garden in another location near Fall Creek.

“Green infrastructure is the central strategy featured in the LFCWMP update, which recommends a variety of green infrastructure practices to be implemented through neighborhood partnerships like the NuGenesis funding,” Hazlett continued.

Fall Creek also partnered with ROW’s White River Committee this year to pull trash and especially old tires out of the waterway by way of volunteers in canoes. There are many opportunities to get engaged and be involved in the ROW Fall Creek waterway efforts.

The committee meets monthly, virtually or outdoors, to visit spaces and plan for projects. ROW also works with volunteer groups along Central Canal, Little Eagle Creek, Pleasant Run, Pogue’s Run and White River. Learn about all these efforts at ourwaterways.org, where you can find the meeting schedule, sign up for our e-newsletter, or follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter).

Julie L. Rhodes is collective impact director for Reconnecting to Our Waterways.

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