In recent years, Hamilton County and Marion County have experienced a renaissance. Downtown development is accelerating again, suburban communities are thriving, cultural institutions are expanding, major infrastructure projects are tackling water quality challenges, and park improvements are leading to a flourishing quality of life for the community. Long overlooked and underappreciated, the river too is awakening from a period of underutilization and ecological degradation.
Building on decades of hard work by community and environmental groups, the White River Vision Plan launched in 2020 to help realize the enormous potential of our river to enhance regional vibrancy, ecological integrity, and economic vitality.
So many exciting improvements are coming to the river. Which are you most excited about?
- Dig Indy Water Quality Improvements. In the summer of 2022, Citizens Energy Group’s White River Deep Rock Tunnel opened, the largest investment in water quality improvements in the river’s history. An 18-foot wide tunnel 200 feet below ground, the tunnel is part of a 28-mile long, $2 billion network to capture and treat wastewater in Indy. The remaining two tunnels on Fall Creek and Pleasant Run will open in 2025 and divert more than 97% of combined sewer overflows in Indianapolis. Upstream, Noblesville is also addressing its system. CSOs are a common century-old problem in cities and towns across Indiana where wastewater from buildings and stormwater from streets enter the same pipe, and during rain events is discharged into streams as the pipes fill.
- New Fishers White River Park. As part of a mixed-use development coming to Fishers, a new 120+ acre riverfront park, with nearly a mile of riverfront, will be developed at the convergence of Marion and Hamilton counties. While final plans haven’t been released, expect plenty of nature-based activities, wetland restoration, and water access in the region’s largest riverfront park addition in decades!
- White RIver State Park Expansion. White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis, home to the Indianapolis Zoo, Indiana State Museum, TCU Amphitheater, the NCAA Hall of Champions, and the Eiteljorg Museum, is expanding with an additional 10 acres of parkland along the White River Greenway. While plans haven’t been released, a part of the river’s industrial heritage will be preserved with a portion of the former GM crane bay structure, and the Indianapolis Cultural Trail will connect to the park with a $30 million extension along the new iconic Henry Street Bridge.
- Conner Prairie Expansion. The Fishers-based Conner Prairie living history museum is expanding by 260 acres across White River in Carmel and making the river a centerpiece of the museum’s experience. New trails and restored habitat will connect a White River Education and Ecology Center, a new Food, Farm, and Energy Experience, and a small eco-lodge and farm-to-table restaurant. More than 85% of the expansion will remain open space.
- Affordable Housing Preservation. The White River has been lined with human settlements well before the neighborhoods we know today existed, including Lenape and Miami nation communities that were present when European settlers first arrived. The White River Vision Plan’s guiding principles include preserving places for all so that residents who lived near the river during its worst times have a place in its best times. Indianapolis has invested through a series of programs in the Riverside neighborhood, including most recently the “Vacant to Vibrant” initiative to transform abandoned homes into affordable homeownership opportunities. A community land trust is also in the works to preserve affordable housing, while the city has proposed a pilot implementation of a new State law that limits property tax increases for long-time homeowners in gentrifying areas.
- Carmel White River Greenway. Carmel is set to invest $4 million in completing its riverfront greenway into a 5.4 mile path, connecting its trail network in Hazel Landing Park near 116th Street with Conner Prairie’s expansion near 146th Street. The work will have a new river overlook platform and trailhead facilities including a restroom.
- Riverside Adventure Park. A 200-acre former golf course in the Riverside Regional Park system, is being converted into an adventure park to include nature trails, winter recreation amenities, public art, a nature playground, and archery and fitness courses, in addition to the current soapbox derby hill. The first round of improvements will include parking and trail improvements as well as picnic pavilions. The park is also home to Indy’s first canoe and kayak rental, Frank’s Paddlesports, that opened this year.
Want to know more about all the work recently completed or planned along the river? Follow the community’s progress on the White RIver Progress section of our History and Future page.