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When the Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Department revealed this month a local business owner was willing to donate 50 acres of land to the agency, it described it as a gift that would benefit generations to come.

The contribution would allow the department to immediately expand 10 acres of Potter’s Bridge Park near Noblesville and build a 30-acre man-made lake for boating and fishing.

But there was a catch. And residents nearby say it’s a pretty big catch.

In order to build the lake, the benefactor, Chris Beaver of Beaver Materials, would need to excavate gravel for 10 years.

Hamilton County Parks plan an expansion and man made lake like this one at Potter’s Bridge Park. (Photo: John Tuohy/IndyStar)

Now, the residents fear their quiet cul-de-sacs near the park will be disturbed by growling heavy machinery, rumbling dump trucks, large dust plumes and they claim the disturbance threatens to decrease their home values.

“This is going to be a disaster area for 10 years,” said Karey Bredemeyer, a realtor who lives in the Potters Woods subdivision of 140 homes. “We didn’t build here to be next to a quarry. I can’t imagine trying to sell a home here when trucksare driving in and out off there all day.”

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The 75-acre Potter’s Bridge Park is at 195th Street and Allisonville Road next to the White River. It features trails, fishing, a canoe launch and picnic areas, as well as a historic covered bridge. Four subdivisions are nearby on the opposite side of Allisonville Road and residents there say they frequently use the park and value its peacefulness.

A path is cleared for hauling gravel at Beaver Materials gravel pit in Strawtown, Ind., Thursday, September 24, 2020. (Photo: Grace Hollars/IndyStar)

Beaver said the residents are overstating the disturbance.

There would be no blasting of rocks, Beaver said, just digging with a single excavator which would load the gravel into dump trucks — about 30 a day — from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. weekdays.  The gravel wouldn’t be processed at the park but driven  to a plant on River Road, five miles away in Noblesville.

“The days of mining and leaving are over,” Beaver said. “I want to be a good steward and give something back to the community. That’s what this lake and the other land is. With no cost to the taxpayers.” 

He said the noise would be no louder to residents at that distance than street traffic on Allisonville Road. Workers would build berms to keep the sound from traveling and the trucks would have weight limits for loads and be required to drive at low speeds.

The trucks would also be covered with tarp and the gravel pit area would be hosed down all day to keep dust from drifting about.

Tranquility threatened

Beaver is in the process of buying the farmland from the owner, which is a large bean field that hugs the park’s 1 ½-mile White River Greenway that runs along the river.

The parks department would immediately expand 10 acres of the land with trails and foot paths. Beaver would dig on the other 40 acres and the lake would be about 30 acres.

Parks Resource Development Director Don Nicholls said the expansion and lake will greatly enhance the park.

“We will expand our trail system and aquatic features,” Nicholls said, “and give greater access to the White River.”

Parks officials entered talks with Beaver in an effort to replicate a similar partnership at nearby Koteewi Park in Strawtown.  Earlier this month, it opened a 19-acre lake there that had been a working gravel pit for 10 years. The dirt from that excavation was used to build the Koteewi Run Seasonal Slopes tubing hill.

But the residents near Potter’s Bridge note that the 810-acre Koteewi Park is isolated, far away from dense neighborhoods. 

Resident Barb Turk said it’s not just the homeowners near Potter’s Bridge Park who will be inconvenienced but park users, as well. The greenway runs next to the proposed gravel pit and she fears that those quiet walks will be disrupted, as well.

Lots of people go on that trail walking their dogs or riding their bikes everyday,” Turk said. “And they are there for the tranquility.”

Potters Woods resident Traci Preble questioned whether another water feature was needed at a park that sits next to the White River and has a canoe launch.

“My concerns are not only due to the air, noise and water pollution that we will deal with as the gravel is mined for ten years,” she said, “but also the danger of the pit in respect to the young children that live around it and use the park in the following years.”

‘Misconceptions’

A meeting Sept. 14 to provide details of the plan at Potter’s Bridge Park with Beaver, parks officials and residents drew 100 people and grew heated at times, participants said.

Turk said officials painted a sunny picture of the lake and additional parkland and downplayed the years of excavation at the gravel pit.

“We had to dig to find out,” she said, “what the true meaning and of all this was.”

A giant excavator sits on the edge of a small pond at Beaver Materials gravel pit in Strawtown, Ind., Thursday, September 24, 2020.  (Photo: Grace Hollars/IndyStar)

Nicholls said the meeting was at Beaver’s suggestion.

“He wanted to engage the public he is going above and beyond what he needs to do,” Nicholls said.

Beaver had hoped to clear up some “misconceptions,” Nicholls said.

“It’s is not a loud and dusty operation,” he said. “They knew there would be concerns. This is not their first rodeo. They know their stuff.”

Some residents met with Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen after the community meeting.

“He listened but was non-committal,” Preble said.

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“They had some very valid concerns and made some good points,” said Jensen, mentioning truck traffic and pollution.

Jensen said he was briefed on the project a couple of weeks earlier but wanted to hear what all sides have to say.

“We are still in a fact-finding stage,” he said, “I’m not ready to say if I support it.”

Hamilton County Cmsr. Mark Heirbrandt said he was optimistic a compromise could be reached while noting that the county commission has no role in the planning or the approval of the deal.

“I understand the concerns but there is a lot that can be worked through,”  Heirbrandt said. “I think Mr. Beaver and the parks department have good intentions. We do a lot of complicated projects and they always get resolved — so that is my hope here.”

Though it is a county parks operation, Noblesville has zoning jurisdiction and the City Council must approve the project.

Beaver is seeking a special zoning designation — called an overlay district —  that allows the government to put in a layer of regulation specific to the project. The public will get at least a couple of chances to weigh in. The first is at a Plan Commission hearing on Oct. 19 at City Hall. The plan will then be introduced before the council on Nov. 10.

Call IndyStar reporter John Tuohy at 317-444-6418. Email at [email protected] and follow on Twitter and Facebook.

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