Scott Martin, executive director of River Heritage Conservancy, stands by the riverfront Saturday during a tour of the future Origin Park site. Staff photo by Bill Hanson
Scott Martin, executive director of River Heritage Conservancy, stands by the riverfront Saturday during a tour of the future Origin Park site. Staff photo by Bill Hanson
FLOYD COUNTY — The Floyd County Commissioners are endorsing River Heritage Conservancy’s plans for Origin Park, touting it as a project that will transform the region.

All three commissioners have announced their support for Origin Park, a 600-acre urban park planned along the Ohio River.

Shawn Carruthers, president of the Floyd County Commissioners, said the Origin Park project is a “once in a lifetime opportunity to improve our quality of life, while accelerating the other development initiatives already underway in our region.”

Carruthers joined Floyd County Commissioner John Schellenberger Monday for a tour of a future Origin Park site in Clarksville with conservancy leadership.

Scott Martin, executive director of the conservancy, said the project isn’t about “jurisdictional boundaries.”

“It’s about our region, it’s about our state, and in a lot of ways it’s about our nation,” he said. “To see folks grabbing onto the idea and getting behind it, that affirms everything that we’ve learned about the site,” he said. “It’s hard once you’ve gotten into the site not to be really excited about its potential.”

The commissioners are taking a different approach than the City of New Albany, which has not endorsed the Origin Park project.

New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan is opposing the planned removal of the low-head Providence Mill Dam on Silver Creek, a move that is essential to the conservancy’s plans of opening a 4.5 “blueway” for recreational purposes such as paddling.

The City of New Albany is appealing the removal of the dam, which was approved by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources earlier this year. Gahan stated in a letter to residents that he wants to see further studies of the effects the dam removal could have on wildlife, the News and Tribune previously reported.

Martin previously told the News and Tribune the removal of the dam would benefit local wildlife and eliminate a hazard to paddlers along the waterway.

Most of the park would be located in Clarksville, but the New Albany shoreline and Loop Island Wetlands play a major part in the plans for the park.

Carruthers said they came out to the tour Monday for a “firsthand view of the vision that’s been cast for this region.”

“We see an opportunity here that we can’t let slip away,” he said. “This is not only going to affect us here in the next few years but 50, 60 and 100 years from now, this park will still be in place, and we are planting the seeds today for future growth of this region.”

He hopes for a “fast start to the project, including making the Silver Creek Blueway a reality,” he said.

Carruthers said he believes it will be “beneficial” for Floyd County to be part of the project.

“It’s going to bring in tourists,” he said. “It’s going to make Floyd County a destination — make this region a destination,” he said.

He wants to take a collaborative approach, he said.

“We’ve got to have a vision for what this region wants to be in the future, and I think it’s got to be a vision of unity, it’s got to be a vision of building something new that’s never been in this region before, and I think Floyd County, New Albany — we should all be a part of that,” Carruthers said. “Let’s shape the vision of what this community is going to be 50 to 100 years from now.”

Schellenberger said big ideas “require big collaboration and teamwork,” and he noted River Heritage Conservancy’s decision to bring on OLIN Studio to design the master plan for the park.

“I think they’ve got a lot of good plans bringing the architects and engineers and all that to bring it to fruition,” he said. “I’m impressed so far with what I’ve seen.”

Floyd County Commissioner Tim Kamer did not attend the Origin Park tour Monday but also expressed his support for the project in a joint statement from the commissioners.

“To add such an asset along the Indiana shoreline and bordering Floyd County is as important to everyone in Floyd County as is the Louisville International Airport, the Speed Art Museum, the [KFC] Yum Center and the many other attractions on the south bank of the river,” Kamer said.

Kent Lanum, board chair of the conservancy, joined Martin and the commissioners Monday for the Origin Park tour. He said receiving the endorsement from the Floyd County Commissioners is “huge.”

“It shows that this a regional play, not just a Clark County play,” he said. “You could even make a case it goes for Washington, Harrison and Scott counties, because you’re only 30 miles away from this type of project. What we’ll have here people will be wanting to drive to.”

Martin said building a “livable, ecologically-successful and accessible community will put us in a very health position.”

“I think what’s neat about this project is it fits into a system of our region with the Parklands of Floyds Fork, Waterfront Park and the Olmstead parks on the Louisville side of the river,” he said. “This is bringing that same experience and that same scale to the north shore and really ties and cements our whole region together.”
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