Park project on southern Indiana’s riverfront held up by concerns over dam removal

A hearing was held Wednesday to discuss the implications of removing a dam from New Albany’s Silver Creek.

NEW ALBANY, Ind. — A new park project is currently underway in southern Indiana, but officials are asking for transparency from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) before crews continue work.

According to a press release, the DNR is planning to remove a low-head dam from Silver Creek near the New Albany Loop Island Wetlands. The removal is part of the plan for Origin Park, a 600-acre park along the north shore of the Ohio River. The project is expected to include 35 acres of new park lawns, 22 miles of trails and hundreds of acres of protected urban forest.

“If we do our job right, we are going to encourage people to play hooky on Friday afternoons,” said Scott Martin, the executive director for River Heritage Conservancy, the group in charge of the project.

This work will take some time. Martin estimated that the full plan for Origin Park may be complete in about 20 years – but smaller projects within the overall plan could be finished by the end of 2021.

One of those projects is the Silver Creek Blueway – a 4.5-mile stretch where people will be able to paddle, canoe or kayak. The project includes the removal of the Providence Mill Dam.

New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan asked the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to hold a public hearing so people in the community will know the possible impacts of the dam’s removal. 

Critics of the project have expressed concern about the historical significance of the dam and how its removal could impact the local ecological system. New Albany Councilman Pat McLaughlin said he thinks it’s too soon to remove the dam and said this part of the project was “being pushed too quickly.”

Councilman Al Knable said he is trusting the science.

“I think if the Department of Natural Resources says it is a safe and natural thing to do, we should trust the science on that and go for it,” he said.

The hearing was scheduled for 5 p.m. on March 31.

The City of New Albany has also asked the Indiana DNR engineers to look into how the removal of the dam will affect erosion, water flow speeds and changes in flow patterns of Silver Creek.

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