Indianapolis residents who live along Pleasant Run Parkway gathered Sunday to celebrate art and natural beauty.
They unveiled a towering, electric blue-and-green sculpture of a blue heron, welded by local artist Patrick Mack, to welcome passersby across the Spruce Street bridge and Pleasant Run Creek.
Amid the celebration, some passed out petitions outlining what they said is a new threat to the stream: a city proposal to pave parking lots along the waterway near its $625 million Community Justice Campus.
The proposal departs from code created in the city’s 2015 Indy Rezone campaign to preserve green space within 60 feet of the city’s waterways. Only 20 feet of the green space would be protected under the new proposal.
Fountain Square Alliance President Susan Gaw says that’s why she and her colleagues from seven southside organizations formed People for Pleasant Run, or PFPR. It’s their attempt to protect the waterway and nearby greenspace that’s helped to reconnect neighbors, preserve wildlife and prevent flooding.
“We feel that any reduction in the stream protection corridor, especially any plans to pave right up next to the stream within 20 feet as the variance requests on both sides of the creek is a huge detriment to the waterway,” Gaw says.
Mayor Joe Hogsett delivered remarks as the statue was unveiled. He said he doesn’t want to overlook the environment as the Community Justice Campus develops, a project he and PFPR organizers agree is a positive step for the city.
The campus is already under construction and expected to open in 2022. It will host a jail, a sheriff’s office and an assessment and intervention center to provide mental health services.
“The Community Justice Campus is an important asset for the neighborhoods, but that doesn’t mean that we do so at the risk of taking a step backward in protecting our waterways and other natural assets that are important,” Hogsett says.
Hogsett says the process will also require patience and an open dialogue.
“I’m hoping a good balance can be reached and a compromise ultimately concluded,” Hogsett says.
The next public meeting on the city’s proposal is Thursday, Nov. 14 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Indianapolis City-County Building, 200 E. Washington St.