Vision & Progress

Connecting neighborhoods, parks, culture, and more.

Our Vision

The White River is Central Indiana’s next frontier: unifying and diverse, productive and protected, timeless and contemporary. The River sets us apart as communities that can work together to realize big dreams. Its healing power guides us toward a resilient future, supports healthy neighborhoods and economies, honors the past, and improves the lives of Hoosiers for generations to come.

The White River Vision Plan

The White River Vision Plan is a community-driven plan in Hamilton County and Indianapolis that explores the enormous potential of our river to enhance regional vibrancy, ecological integrity, livability, and economic vitality.

In recent years, Hamilton County and Marion County have experienced a renaissance. Downtown development is accelerating, suburban communities are flourishing, 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 invisible, the river too is awakening from a period of underutilization and ecological degradation. Unveiled in 2020, the plan is the culmination of the thoughts of more than 13,000 people gathered during a nearly two-year planning process.

Working Together to Implement the Plan

The Vision Plan brings together urban, suburban, and rural communities in two very diverse counties with a vision for a shared resource we all depend upon. To turn the vision into reality, many partner communities, organizations, agencies, and people will have to do their part. To continue coordinating all of this work and bringing resources to accelerate it, the Vision Plan is crafting a new model for how Central Indiana can work together.

Learn more about who’s implementing the plan

Vision Plan Progress

The Vision Plan is a generational plan to establish a national-park like network of places and experiences, and it’s being implemented through dozens of projects and partners across the two counties. Riverfront parks in both communities are already receiving additional investment. White River State Park is expanding. Combined sewer systems in Noblesville and Indianapolis are being addressed. A growing number of people are living, working, and visiting riverfront villages. Trail networks to and along the river are growing. Upstream farmers are being incentivized to use farming methods that help the river’s health.  Institutions are activating their river’s edges. It’s just the beginning!

Plan Progress

Implementing the Vision Plan

Update Type
Region or Reach
Meadow Reach
Trails at Conner Prairie Opens

The Trails at Conner Prairie experience opened with two trails located along the oxbow bend of the river and certified as Indiana Wildlife Federation Sustainable Trails. The 2-mile Prairie Trail is paved while the 2-mile natural R.B. Annis Vista Trail is more rugged.

Village Lakes
Indianapolis North Levee System Accredited

The Indianapolis North Levee System, stretching for 3.85 miles and under construction from 2004-2019, received final accreditation by FEMA in 2023. The levee removes 2,134 buildings worth about $1 billion in value from the floodplain in the Warfleigh, Broad Ripple, and Butler Tarkington areas.

Protected Reach
Cultural Trail Expands to White River

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail announced in 2023 that it would receive a $21m extension to connect a current trail spur at Lucas Oil Stadium through the planned Indy Eleven Park and over the planned iconic Henry Street Bridge to White River State Park‘s expansion area.

Multiple Reaches
Lilly Endowment Invests in Indy Parks

In 2023, the Lilly Endowment awarded $80m for improvements across the Indy Parks system, including several major grants for White River-adjacent parks. Holliday Park is receiving $4.5m for playground and signage improvements, walkway upgrades, and gazebo maintenance. Major Taylor Skate Park, part of Riverside Regional Park, is receiving funds to expand and add lighting. Riverside Park itself is receiving $11.55 in new funding (on top of $6.5m previously committed by the City) to build a new playground at the Taggart Memorial, upgrades to the soap box derby track, and new sidewalks and nature trails in the new adventure park portion of the park. Southwestway Park received $1.25m for a new comfort station, expanded parking area, and playground.

Village Lakes
Broad Ripple Park Family Center Opens

In 2023, a new significantly expanded Broad Ripple Park Family Center opened, the first step in implementation of the Broad Ripple Park Master Plan completed in 2019.

Village Lakes
Broad Ripple RiverWalk Completed

In 2023, construction wrapped up on the Broad Ripple RiverWalk promenade, connecting Broad Ripple Park with Broad Ripple Village.

Multiple Reaches
Floodplain Connectivity Mapping

In 2023, The Nature Conservancy is researching aquatic wildlife restoration techniques and mapping floodplain connectivity along the White River.

Protected Reach
Riverside Affordable Housing

Indianapolis announced the Vacant to Vibrant housing initiative in 2023 to develop new affordable home ownership and rental housing in two city neighborhoods facing growth pressures, including the Riverside neighborhood. A pilot of a new residential property tax escalation cap has also been approved to address gentrification concerns in the area.

Multiple Reaches
CEDS Embraces Vision Plan

The Central Indiana Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) regional blueprint was adopted in 2023 and calls for a focus on water management and for expanding the vision plan’s framework to other communities.

Multiple Reaches
White River Report Card Released

The White River Alliance led the development of the White River Report Card with input from throughout the community. This scientifically based Report Card analyzed 9 watershed regions and calculated 142 grades for 18 different categories related to land, water, and community.

Multiple Reaches
Indy Water Connection Camp Launches

In 2023, Friends of the White River launched a new Indy Water Connection Camp to increase opportunities for racially and ethnically underrepresented communities to interact with the White River.

Meadow Reach
Conner Prairie Nature Trails

In 2023, Conner Prairie began construction of 2.5 miles of nature trails along the White River, thus activating another 260 acres of their properties for guest access. The trails will open to the public in spring 2024.

Multiple Reaches
Carmel White River Greenways Expands

In 2023, Carmel will extend its White River Greenway, following the river for more than 5 miles from 116th to 146th Streets and includes a partnership with Conner Prairie’s river-related projects.

Protected Reach
30th Street Bridge Reconstructed

The historic 30th Street bridge in Riverside Park is currently being rehabilitated and restored, including wide promenades leading down to the water’s edge.

North Reach
Steven Nation Trail Opens

The Steven Nation Trail, which connects downtown Cicero to Strawtown Koteewi Park and the White River along an east-west route, opened in the summer of 2023, providing additional miles of greenway connectivity to the river.

Meadow Reach
146th Street Bridge Reconstruction

The 146th Street bridge over White River is being reconstructed. The old bridge used a solid barrier wall, inhibiting views of the White River, while the new one includes a design that allows views of the river along with wider pedestrian paths.

Protected Reach
White River State Park Expanding

A 10-acre expansion of White River State Park along the river will be part of the Elanco redevelopment of the former GM Stamping Plant. Planning for the park expansion is currently underway.

North Reach
Conservation Agriculture Assistance

As part of the National Water Quality Initiative, The Nature Conservancy provides outreach to farmers and dollars for conservation practice implementation on farms in the Upper White River watershed, including $2M in the Prairie Creek Reservoir area and $50,000 in Hamilton and Tipton counties.

Multiple Reaches
DigIndy White River Tunnel Opens

Citizens Energy Group’s Dig IndyTunnel System is already reducing combined sewer overflow incidents in the river, improving its health and the health of the surrounding communities. In 2022, the White River Dig Indy tunnel opened, joining the Eagle Creek and Pogues Run tunnels to nearly eliminate all combined sewer overflows into those waterways. Work continues on Fall Creek and Pleasant Run tunnels, with completion expected in 2025.

Meadow Reach
Pleasant Street Bridge

Hamilton County and Noblesville broke ground in 2022 on the new Pleasant Street Bridge as part of the city’s Reimagine Pleasant Street initiative. Not only will the bridge ease traffic congestion in downtown Noblesville, but its pillars will also tell the story of the three WRVP guiding principles of environment, economy, and equity through public art.

Protected Reach
Elanco Headquarters

Elanco broke ground in 2022 on a new $100M campus on the former GM Stamping Plant site along the west bank of the river in downtown Indy, which will include expansion of White River State Park and a new multi-modal bridge that will connect West Indy with downtown.

Multiple Reaches
White River Regional Opportunity Initiative

Hamilton, Madison and Marion Counties, together with the communities of Anderson, Carmel, Fishers, Indianapolis, McCordsville, Noblesville, Westfield and Zionsville, joined forces to use the White River watershed as a framework for a White River Regional Opportunity Initiative, a collaborative submission for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s READI grant initiative and was awarded $20M in project funding. Included in the plans are not only commercial developments but new greenways and park spaces.

Multiple Reaches
Invasive Species Mitigation

Through a partnership with MIBOR, the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District installed numerous boot brush stations at parks in the White River watershed to reduce the destructive spread of invasive plant species.

Meadow Reach
Nexus Development

The Nexus mixed-use development in downtown Noblesville opened in 2022, providing 287 apartment homes with retail space and a trail connection to the nearby White River Greenway and Forest Park.

Meadow Reach
The Village at Federal Hill

Construction began on The Village at Federal Hill, located near White River’s Federal Hill Commons Park in downtown Noblesville. When complete, the development will bring 220 apartment homes and new retail space to the area.

Meadow Reach
East Bank Apartments

Construction began on the East Bank Apartments development, located along the Noblesville Riverwalk in downtown Noblesville. When complete, the project will offer 219 apartment homes and retail space.

Meadow Reach
Burr Oak Bend Acquired by Hamilton County Parks

In 2022, the Central Indiana Land Trust transferred the Burr Oak Bend nature preserve in Noblesville to Hamilton County Parks, with plans to continue ecological restoration and expand public access by constructing a new trail.

Quarry Reach
Accessibility at River Heritage Park

In 2022, Carmel Clay Parks finished updates at River Heritage Park to include wheelchair-accessible playgrounds, nature trails and White River overlooks.

Protected Reach
Rock Ramp Dam Completed

A new rock ramp dam structure in Riverside Park now replaces the Emrichsville Dam which collapsed in 2018. The rock ramp dam offers a safer and more ecologically friendly alternative to low-head dams.

Village Lakes
Kessler Boulevard Bridge Reconstruction

In 2022, Indianapolis spent $7.5m to complete extensive reconstruction of the Kessler Boulevard Bridge over the White River.

Multiple Reaches
Oliver’s Woods Nature Preserve Opens

In 2021, the Oliver’s Woods nature preserve opened along the river, nestled in the busy Keystone at the Crossing Area. The 53-acre park includes nature trails and a canoe launch on the river.

Protected Reach
Belmont Beach Pop-Up Park Opens

In 2021, Haughville neighborhood residents and Visit Indy opened the Belmont Beach pop-up park, a temporary community park celebrating human and environmental resiliency at the site of the formerly segregated swimming beach. A master plan is currently underway for the historic site that will soon become an official City of Indianapolis park.

Multiple Reaches
Riverside Adventure Park Plan Released

In 2021, the Riverside Adventure Park plan was completed, repurposing the former Riverside Golf Course that had been taken offline a year earlier as part of implementation of the broader Riverside Park Master Plan, completed in 2018. Funding for initial projects in both parks has been committed by the Circle City Forward program.

Protected Reach
Restored Taggart Amphitheatre Opens

In 2021, the Taggart Memorial Amphitheatre in Riverside Park opened. The restored historic Taggart Memorial serves as the backdrop for community programming from Indy Parks and is home to IndyShakes, an outdoor Shakespeare company.

Multiple Reaches
HamCo Comprehensive Plan Embraces River

The 2021 update to the Hamilton County Comprehensive Plan places significant focus on preserving the river floodplain and specifically incorporates several of the Vision Plan’s guiding principles.

Multiple Reaches
RAFT Water Quality Program Launches

To fill gaps in knowledge, the White River Alliance launched a River Assessment Field Team (RAFT) program. This program uses trained volunteers to collect water quality data at 74 sampling sites, which is shared with State and local officials as part of ongoing analysis of the river’s health.

Multiple Reaches
Central Indiana Water Study

Indiana Finance Authority completed the Central Indiana Water Study in 2021, which explores forecasted water demand and supply in the watershed.

Meadow Reach
Conner Praire Shoreline Stabilization

Conner Prairie has completed three shoreline stabilization projects, reducing silt and runoff in the river.

Multiple Reaches
South River District Study

In 2021, Hamilton County Tourism released its South River District Study, proposing improvements and connections between Conner Prairie’s planned River Education Center and two existing and one new park. This new park, Thomas Marcuccilli Nature Park, was also announced.

Quarry Reach
Fishers Announces New Riverfront Park

In 2021, a new riverfront park was identified as needed in the new Fishers 2040 Comprehensive Plan. Fishers has since purchased property just north of 96th Street and begun planning the park.

Village Lakes
White River Bluffs Protected

In 2020, after several proposals for private residential development, the Central Indiana Land Trust acquired riverfront property, known as White River Bluffs, from the Highland Country Club.

Multiple Reaches
Agriculture Cover Crop Incentive Program

Indiana Department of Agriculture, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, has funded a Cover Crop Premium Discount Program since 2020 to incentivize farmers in the upper White River watershed to plant cover crops to reduce erosion and improve quality.

Multiple Reaches
White River Water Quality Study

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Department of Environmental Management completed the White River Mainstem Project water quality study in 2020, one of the most significant studies of water quality on the river ever undertaken.

Village Lakes
Nature Park Riverbank Stabilization

In 2020, Newfields completed riverbank stabilization and reopened the riverfront trail in the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park.

North Reach
Koteewi Lake Opens

In 2020, Koteewi Lake, a repurposed gravel pit near the White River, opened for public use at Strawtown Koteewi Park and includes a kayak launch.

Multiple Reaches
Carmel-Clay Parks Prioritize White River

In 2020, the White River is featured as a top priority in the Carmel-Clay Parks 2020-2024 Master Plan.

Meadow Reach
Logan Street Bridge Overlook

The Logan Street Bridge in downtown Noblesville was expanded to include wider pedestrian paths and a plaza-like overlook dubbed “The Bridge of Flowers.” It also has changeable seasonal colored lighting underneath.

Meadow Reach
Conner Prairie Master Plan Update

In 2019, Conner Prairie updated its campus master plan, proposing significant restoration and activation of the several miles of riverfront it owns, most notably through construction of a new River Education Center.

Protected Reach
New York Street Bridge Illumination

The New York Street Bridge in downtown Indy has installed changeable LED lighting and serves as an icon for the area.

Village Lakes
River House Development Opens in Broad Ripple

The River House mixed-use development opened in 2019 at the confluence of the Central Canal and White River, offering 86 apartments and first-floor retail overlooking the river in Broad Ripple.

Vision Plan & River Partners FAQs

Because the plan is a vision with guiding principles and illustrative case studies and not a master plan with specific projects, there is no way to say the plan is x% complete. Instead we look to individual partners who are inspired by the plan and want to use its principles to guide their own projects. We are keeping track of the progress our community is making in implementing the plan on our History & Future page.

Because the White River Vision Plan isn’t a master plan with a list of specific projects, there really isn’t a cost associated with it. Through its guiding principles and illustrative case studies, the plan is designed to inspire individual communities, organizations, parks, attractions, and even individuals to take action in their own places, big and small. When each of those places identify projects, they will also develop a funding plan to make them happen (and to maintain and develop programming for them once built). We do know projects will likely require public (including new public sources), private, and philanthropic funds.

Yes, but it’s also about quality of life for residents, environmental stewardship, recreation and wellness, neighborhood vitality, flood protection, equitable economic development, and more! The plan was intentionally developed by a wide array of stakeholders and is deliberately broad in its scope.

We don’t think so. We believe if the river is out of sight, it’s out of mind. The more reasons people have to connect with the river, the more a part of their lives the river becomes, the more they will fall in love with the river and demand its protection. That doesn’t mean every proposed project on or along the river is good: we have to be very intentional and careful, engage ecological experts, and follow the guiding principles outlined by the plan.

It’s a starting point. The two counties are the largest two counties along the river and have the greatest density of existing parks and attractions. We know communities upstream and downstream are doing good work too, and we hope the Vision Plan will eventually grow to incorporate and align their work.

Get In Touch

If you have a question or concern—or just want to know more about how you can help achieve the community’s vision for the White River—we want to know!

Note that for the fastest response, if you have a question about an individual park, partner organization, event, or river destination, use the links above to connect to their websites for more information.