A rendering shows plans for Buttonbush Woods, a section of Origin Park’s first phase. The wooded area will include a system of trails along Mill Creek. Provided images
A rendering shows plans for Buttonbush Woods, a section of Origin Park’s first phase. The wooded area will include a system of trails along Mill Creek. Provided images
CLARK COUNTY — River Heritage Conservancy is looking to the first phase of developing Origin Park as it focuses its efforts in Clark County.

On Tuesday, the park’s director and designer presented a series of roundtable discussions to detail updated plans for the riverfront park and answer questions from the community.

An earlier site plan for Origin Park included more than 600 acres with land in both Clarksville and New Albany. Now, the plans have been scaled back to focus instead on 430 acres in Clark County, according to Susan Rademacher, executive director of River Heritage Conservancy.

The plans for Origin Park have changed since the master plan was revealed in 2020. The City of New Albany has not endorsed the plans for Origin Park, and the city has its own plans for the riverfront area.

“(The plan originally) included lands that New Albany is managing, so this year, what we’ve done is we’ve kind of redrawn the boundary of the park proper, because this vision is bigger than Origin Park itself,”

Rademacher said. “Origin Park is a big connecting piece for a lot of other green spaces and it will all come through here and pass through here.”

“In our looking at the fact that we do have New Albany actively making plans and working along this riverfront, we’ve redefined Origin Park as 430 acres east of Silver Creek,” she said.

Tuesday’s discussion included a presentation on plans for phase one, which include an event center and a trail system going through a 110-acre wooded area along Mill Creek called Buttonbush Woods. The design stage is currently underway for this phase.

The first phase consists of about a third of the total site plan, and it is located in the lower southeast corner of Origin Park.

Cindy Sanders, a partner with Philadelphia-based studio OLIN, is leading the design team for Origin Park. She said the first phase will include an event center that will include rooms with vistas overlooking the river, as well as a public “living room.”

It will also include a space called River House. The building will eventually be home to an artist studio, but it will first serve as the headquarters for River Heritage Conservancy for a few years before another space is built to house the nonprofit.

Native plants will cover the outdoor space at both the event center and the studio, Sanders said.

The planned trails through Buttonbush Woods will include boardwalks, hiking trails and an elevated path called the “Upper Way.” The Upper Way will allow people to enjoy the park even when it is flooded.

Origin Park’s first major project is underway as River Heritage Conservancy constructs a “blueway” on Silver Creek, which involves two launch points for people to access Silver Creek on a kayak or canoe. One launch site at Blackiston Mill has already been completed, and another is under construction.

Rademacher said the goal is to open the Silver Creek access by next spring. However, there have been delays in the conservancy’s ability to move forward with the opening of the blueway.

Origin Park officials say the removal of a low-head dam on Silver Creek is necessary for safe passage on the waterway. However, the City of New Albany is appealing the removal.

City officials say they are seeking assurance that the dam’s removal will not damage the Loop Island Wetlands. The City of New Albany is involved in litigation with Ecosystems Connections Institute, a firm partnering with River Heritage Conservancy to remove the dam, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources is reviewing permitting for the removal.

Rademacher said the removal of the dam would improve safety for paddlers and enhance the wildlife along Silver Creek. She expects the matter to be resolved this fall.

“We can’t really make a prediction on that, but we will not open the upper putin while the dam’s in place, because it is such a threat to human life,” she said.

Rademacher said the first construction project after the blueway will be the River House building. The exact timeline of the phase one projects is uncertain, but she expects the event center to be open by 2026.

The planned entrances for Origin Park include gateways at Clark Boulevard and Lewis and Clark Parkway. River Heritage Conservancy has also envisioned a Main Street gateway from New Albany into the park, but those plans are uncertain.

According to Rademacher, River Heritage Conservancy has all of the land needed for phase one, and it has more than 70% of the total land needed for the park. The goal is to complete Origin Park in the next 10 to 15 years, she said.

Phase one of Origin Park is a major step for the project, Rademacher said.

“We want to provide a complete park experience for people in this first phase, so it’s not like, oh gosh, I have to wait until phase three to have a boardwalk experience or to have restrooms in the park or whatever,” she said. “All of the things we’ll be doing in the park, we’ll be doing here at the quality level that we want you to expect and enjoy when we’re managing, maintaining and learning how to operate the park in this first phase.”
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