INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – “I just figured it was a good day to come out,” said Gerald Hardister, a fisherman enjoying a beautiful fall day on the White River.
“I enjoy a good fight. That’s what I care about… the fight from the fish, I enjoy that.”
Hardister says he’s been fishing the White River for more than 60 years.
“Been fishing here in different spots all my life really,” Hardister said. “Ever since I was a little kid.”
He’s seen how bad the White River was, and also how it’s changed
“It’s a lot better now,” Hardister said. “I wouldn’t say its great, I would say that it still needs a lot of cleaning up. But if I was gonna be the judge of where it was and where it is, it’s totally different.”
From fishing to boating, the White River has a lot of potential. Potential that caught the eye of officials in both Marion and Hamilton counties.
“In central Indiana, we don’t have beaches, we don’t have oceans, we don’t have mountains,” said Administrator for Long Range Planning at the City of Indianapolis Brad Beaubien. “But we do have this beautiful river that does go through many of our different neighborhoods.”
Beaubien with the City of Indianapolis is helping lead the White River Vision Plan. A long-term plan to improve 58 miles of the White River.
“Some of that will be destination development, places where people can come and recreate and experience the river and some of that will be places we want to re-wild and restore their natural ecological function,” Beaubien said.
Through phase 1 of the project, Beaubien says they heard from nearly 4,000 people. Many hoping for more opportunity to get in the river.
“They’re excited,” Beaubien said. “They really want to touch it they want to get on it they want to experience it.”
“This is the most public process I’ve ever been involved in,” said President and CEO of Hamilton County Tourism Brenda Myers. “To me, that’s what makes it so exciting.”
As for pollution in the river, projects like the Dig Indy Tunnel are improving the quality. But Beaubien says there’s still other runoff issues that need to be addressed.
“We’re seeing fish species come back, were seeing muscle species come back, and so its healthier than it has been,” Beaubien said “There are efforts underway that will make the water cleaner than it has been in recent history. We’ve still got ways to go.”
While Hardister says he would never eat the fish he catches in the White River, he enjoys just coming out for fun.
“It’s the fight, without the fight you got nothing,” Hardister said. “Just pulling a little bluegill or something like that, I don’t get nothing out of that.”
It’s also a long fight ahead for officials in Marion and Hamilton county, but they’re ready for what will be a long but hopefully rewarding process.
“We want this to be an icon in central Indiana,” Myers said about the river.
As part of Phase Two, there will be three public meetings to hear more ideas about the future of the river. Those are listed below
Tuesday, October 23
Founders Park/Wilfong Pavilion
11675 Hazel Dell Pkwy, Carmel
6 – 8 p.m.
Wednesday, October 24
1720 W. Wilkins St., Indianapolis
Noon – 1:30 p.m.
Wednesday, October 24
ROWPort, Edison School for the Arts
777 S. White River Pkwy, Indianapolis
6 – 7:30 p.m.