The Mud Creek Valley was settled in the 1820s. But much has happened in the last 200 years to shape the landscape of the valley and its residents today. Several times Mud Creek Valley came close to seeing a very different future than the one we know and love today.
The first threat came in 1956. There was a proposal to introduce a toll road for the area. This was successfully protested by the Northeast Indianapolis Council and the proposal was withdrawn. A second proposal arose in 1956 for the development of a new town on 273 acres. This was fought by the Mud Creek Valley Association and the petition was withdrawn.
In 1966 there was a proposal for an airport in the Fort Ben area. This was also fought by the Northeast Indianapolis Council and the proposal was withdrawn. You’ve likely noticed a trend by this point. There have been many opportunities for development in the Mud Creek area, but its residents have always understood the value of this natural area and stood up to protect it.
In 1968, the Mud Creek Valley was up against one of the biggest threats in its known history. The Indianapolis Water Company announced plans to flood Mud Creek in order to build a reservoir. The front page of the Indianapolis Star reported, Water Company Will Build Reservoir, sealing off Mud Creek Valley “from a point just north of Fort Harrison nine miles to the north and slightly east.” Plans were for a 3,600 acre reservoir on an 8,000 acre expanse of hilly green land via a dam at 7300 Fall Creek Road. More than 20 billion gallons of water would be provided for northeast Indianapolis.
Damming Mud Creek would destroy a unique urban ecosystem and would require 15 miles of new roads, 11 bridges and 7 miles of levees. It would flood homes, highways, churches and cemeteries. The Mud Creek Valley residents met at the Mud Creek Players Barn and began to form a plan to fight the reservoir.
The Indianapolis Water Company had recently built Geist Reservoir which had proven to be successful. It would be a difficult battle.
Attorney Bill Vobach, representing Gordon Svoboda, (residents on Lantern and Sargent Roads respectively) filed a lawsuit to halt utility action. Soon the Marion County Commission followed up by challenging the right of a private company to destroy public property without proper authority. Other regulatory agencies began to take notice. These acts gave the Mud Creek residents some time to develop a plan.
Approximately 150 residents of Marion and Hamilton Counties organized to form North East Residential Organization. Vobach and Svoboda appeared before regulatory bodies at dozens of public meetings with maps and data. Mud Creek residents built on their movement with letters to editors and regular petitioning.
In order to raise awareness for the Valley, the first Red Bud Festival and Tour was hosted by the Mud Creek Players. Crowds attended a tour along Sargent, Lantern, Mud Creek and Red Bud roads to view the beautiful blooms. The party ended at the Mud Creek Players Barn to the tune of music, food and passionate discussion. The festival was a huge success and a second and third Red Bud Festival and Tour were hosted in 1969 and 1970.
The conversation continued through letters, hearings, petitions and meetings for years. The state, Congress, the Army Corps of Engineers and Indy Unigov all became involved.
It wasn’t until 1970 that Congressman Jacobs, North East Residential Organization and attorney Vobach, meet with hundreds to discuss alternatives to flooding Mud Creek Valley. The reservoir’s site decision was delayed for full investigation by the U.S. Congress. And on October 7, 1970, the Indianapolis Water Company backed down on their plans for Mud Creek Reservoir. Mud Creek was saved and the residents were victorious!
Further development plans often included rezoning and apartment complex proposals in the area. In 1989 a petition to rezone 10 acres on NW corner of 86th Street & Sargent Road for 6 atrium and 24 unit walled structures, Pine Isle Villas was created. It was withdrawn at Metropolitan Development Commission (MDC) hearing. Remonstrance was led by the group now known today as Sargent Road Association. Additional home development grew and in 1992 Sargent Road Association (SRA) was officially incorporated.
The Founding of Mud Creek Conservancy
In partnership with Indy Greenways, SRA formed the Mud Creek Corridor Committee to research options for private conservation in Mud Creek Valley. This committee would incorporate independently as Mud Creek Conservancy (MCC) in 1994 to enable landowners to donate conservation easements.
In 1995, MCC gained not-for-profit 501(c) 3 status as a land trust.
Since its incorporation MCC's primary focus has been on protecting land from future development through the establishment of conservation easements. MCC has placed 35 acres into permanent protection and is working to protect more. Learn more about how you can support this mission.