For more than a month, commuters and residents have driven past a large sign at the corner of 82nd and Sargent Road with the message “Sargent Road Nature Park You Can Help sargentroadnaturepark.com.” Many have read about the project on Next Door, Facebook and a good number of you have visited the website. Perhaps you are curious about what it all means, who is involved and why we need a park in the first place?
While the Geist community has grown exponentially since 1994 and builders have purchased and developed just about every piece of property, a group of dedicated neighbors formed an organization known as the Mud Creek Conservancy (MCC), a 501(3)C, non-profit land trust to work collaboratively with the community to preserve not only the aesthetic beauty but the ecological services and wildlife habitat of Mud Creek Valley. Over the course of the past 25 years, the group has 35 acres of environmentally sensitive or vulnerable habitats protected through conservation easements along Mud Creek between Fall Creek Road and 96th Street. But the easements are all located on private property.
A long stretch of wooded property along Mud Creek on Sargent Road has been a much-needed respite for drivers commuting home from work and school. The park-like setting is actually a 25-acre parcel of land that boasts an impressive plant and animal diversity which is reliant on the natural habitat. Protecting the property has been a goal of the MCC for a long time. So after a decade of failed attempts to sell the property located at 82nd and Sargent Road, the property owners met with the MCC and, per their agreement, they have two years to purchase the land. That is where the community comes into play.
Mud Creek Valley is an approximately eight-square mile area bound by I-69, Fall Creek and 96th Street. The area is home to 13,000 residents and zero Public Parks. The Mud Creek Valley, according to the MCC, “is a key component to one of Indianapolis’ largest remaining and connected natural habitats. Anchored by Ft. Harrison State Park and the Fall Creek Greenway to the south, Mud Creek extends north along Sargent Road, providing many rare and unique habitat types. The importance of the Mud Creek Valley is underestimated. It provides a haven for plant and wildlife diversity and cleaner air and water to a city stressed by urban sprawl. Residents and visitors alike are taken aback by the unique topography, extensive natural areas and scenic beauty of the valley.”
So, when the property owners decided to consider allowing the MCC to purchase the land, Benjamin Miller, President of the MCC and a Geist resident, recognized the opportunity to offer both greenspace and provide an opportunity to educate residents on the importance of protecting this unique environment. Like many residents that choose to live in Geist, it is often for the area’s aesthetic beauty, and the beautiful greenspace, but Miller quickly learned that while the area was green and there was space, there was not an acre of greenspace.
“This is an exciting opportunity to preserve a truly beautiful piece of North East Indy made up of 25 acres of meadows, young and mature forests and wetlands along Mud Creek,” he says. “In agreement with the landowner, MCC has two years to rally the community to raise the funds to purchase this property. This will forever preserve its beauty and ecological importance and will help fill a public need. The creation of a nature park at this site will provide a much needed public greenspace and allow current and future generations to appreciate and enjoy Indy’s natural areas while preserving it forever.”
Lifelong Mud Creek Valley resident Earl Simon has been a part of the MCC for decades. Simon has helped the organization secure the 35 acres through conservation easements along Mud Creek between Fall Creek Road and 96th Street. Simon, having lived in the area for 40 years, acknowledged that the areas have undergone tremendous changes and is thrilled with the opportunity to help residents see firsthand the importance of the park.
“The few large natural areas that remain are under greater threat of development each year and must be protected,” he says.
The vision for the new Sargent Road Nature Park is well defined and Miller’s passion is evident.
“Once the property has been purchased, there will be very little disruption to the site, with the crushed rock trail, minimal signage, improvements such as parking, trails and benches will focus on low-impact yet effective design and, most importantly, the land will be maintained as it is in nature,” Miller says. “When you walk the property, it makes you feel like it is actually bigger than it is because you come across a young forest, an old forest that has been there for thousands of years, or a meadow, migratory birds and monarch butterflies. So it is a really awesome opportunity for environmental education in an outdoor classroom. Preserving the aesthetic beauty of Geist by protecting it and educating people on the importance of protecting the environment is our goal.”
To make this project a reality, the group invites individuals and businesses to consider making a tax-deductible investment to the project.
“Our goal is to create a valuable asset to the community and for those businesses and individuals that invest in the park, and there will be significant on-going recognition,” Miller says.
There are many different levels of participation available for individuals or businesses. All donation levels will receive permanent park signage at the entry to the park so that one-time investment will provide recognition forever. This is a unique opportunity to leave an impact and a legacy for a lifetime.
For more information, additional materials or to schedule a meeting or presentation, visit the website at sargentroadnaturepark.com or mudcreekconservancy.org/sargent-road-nature-park or reach out to Benjamin Miller, President, Mud Creek Conservancy, at MCConservancy@gmail.com.