TERRE HAUTE —
The air is cleaner and less odorous, downtown continues to rebound and there is newfound respect for the Wabash River and its wetlands.
Participants in a recent GreenTown-Terre Haute breakout session pointed to those developments as indications that a sustainability plan for Terre Haute and Vigo County is already taking shape.
“The upcoming ‘Year of the River’ in 2013 seems to be a powerful opportunity and there is a growing sense about revitalizing Terre Haute as a college town,” said Richard House, English professor at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and a member of Our Green Valley Alliance for Sustainability.
“There are actually quite a few groups that are already working on what we would call components of a sustainability plan,” said Kara Kish, assistant superintendent of the Vigo County Parks Department. “What we’re going to try to do from here forward is to try to bring those groups together and try to define what a sustainability plan is going to look like for Terre Haute and Vigo County.”
Many who took part in the GreenTown events — which the alliance and Indiana State University sponsored last week — said Terre Haute is much larger geographically than most cities of 60,000 and they favored efforts to get more people to live downtown. That’s consistent with plans by Indiana State University to work more closely with city officials and downtown businesses on downtown redevelopment and to develop student housing downtown.
“Downtown seems obviously to be at the center of what we want to do – creating density of downtown with mixed-use development,” House said. “Getting access to the best features of the community for all residents will be important.”
Workshop participants also included in their wish lists a greater reliance on walking and bicycling, rather than driving; use of more foods produced by area residents; and additional public access to the river.
Bob Dixson, mayor of one of the nation’s most recognized “green” communities, directed the GreenTown audience to consider what he called rubble.
Dixson’s town, Greensburg, Kan., encountered literal rubble after it was 95-percent destroyed by a 2007 tornado.
The town’s rebuilding allowed it, he said, to address systematic problems faced even before the twister.
He called on Terre Haute to begin its effort to build a better future by first identifying its own rubble that may not be as obvious as that left by a tornado.
The parallel struck a chord for House. “In some sense, we certainly have areas that need redevelopment, but ours isn’t physical rubble, ours is a sense of our history, perhaps moving out of [being] a community that seemed to be in decline and having a sense of renewal, maybe a renewal of purpose more than physical renewal as they had to do in Greensburg.”
Dixson said Greensburg is rebuilding itself as a “green” town by involving the entire community in grassroots fashion.
Jane Morse, a Trees Inc. board member, said while the grassroots didn’t really turn out for GreenTown, “I think the people who can engage that grassroots did [turn out]. I think there’s enough civic leadership and stakeholders that I really do think things can happen as a result. I can see the wheels starting to move. We have got a lot of strengths and a lot of good things happening here. The momentum is in the right direction.”
Our Green Valley Alliance will try to keep that momentum going when it meets Dec. 7 at the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice at St. Mary-of-the-Woods to continue work on a community sustainability plan.
Planning for the future: Our Green Valley Alliance will meet Dec. 7 at the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice at St. Mary-of-the-Woods to continue work on a community sustainability plan.