Preserve and Restore
Committee Seeking to Establish Geist Reservoir Conservancy District
Since its construction in 1943, Geist Reservoir has seen a flourishing community blossom along its banks, while also drawing local residents to the area yearly for outdoor enjoyment.
As the second-largest human-made lake in Indiana has aged, however, it has not received the proper maintenance needed to ensure that it stays around for future generations to enjoy, and this led a group of area residents to take action.
Sponsored by the Geist Lake Coalition, a steering committee of individuals is working to establish the Geist Conservancy District in order to address and uphold the longevity of Geist Reservoir. Currently in the process of filing a petition, the steering committee is in need of signatures from 30% of the approximately 4,000 Geist-area homes in order to file for a Geist Conservatory District in Hamilton County circuit court.
After gathering between 1,400 and 1,500 signatures in an initial petition drive, the Geist Conservancy District steering committee had their proposal dismissed by a Hamilton County superior court judge in January, due to a 2020 change in state law that redefined the scope and authority of conservation district s at reservoirs.
As the steering committee looks to reacquire signatures for their updated petition, it is making the process easier for residents who wish to support the establishment of a Geist Conservancy District.
“We went back and redid our website, which allows people to download the petition,” says Cory Peter, president of the steering committee. “You can download it and mail it to us, you can download it and upload it back to the website, or you can download it and email it. We tried to make it easier for folks.”
With the establishment of a Geist Conservancy District, a board of directors would be elected to oversee the reservoir’s maintenance.
“The district is divided into nine areas, and from each of the nine areas in the district there’s one representative that’s on the board of the Geist Reservoir Conservancy,” Peter says. “This is a governmental entity of your peers that live in the neighborhood around you, who are representing your area to help drive and impact the efforts of the district.”
Under the Geist Conservancy District, property taxes in the area would be raised in order to fund reservoir needs, along with a raise in permit fees for boaters. In turn, a full-time lake manager would be put in place, along with various other preservation efforts.
“We have to figure out a plan to restore the reservoir back to something close to what it was when it was originally built,” Peter says. “You’re talking about trying to reverse 70 years of sedimentation, and that’s not going to happen quickly. Over time we can start to chip away at that, and I think the biggest message is we have to get started.”
As the Geist Conservancy District steering committee continues to gather signatures for its petition, Peter says his hope is to have the district established by sometime next year.
“Having the ability to form the conservancy district gives us a lot more direct control over the things that happen to this reservoir, such that we can restore it, preserve it and protect it for generations to come,” Peter says.
Learn more at geistconservancy.com.