A map shows planned developments in Borden, including some that might use READI funding.
A map shows planned developments in Borden, including some that might use READI funding.
BORDEN — The Town of Borden is planning for growth in coming years, including developments aimed to bring in tourists and residents, and it hopes to benefit from a grant that will bring millions to the Southern Indiana region.

The Town of Borden has several projects included in the plan submitted by the Our Southern Indiana Regional Development Authority for the Indiana Regional Development Initiative (READI) grant.

Earlier this month, the state announced that the region would receive $50 million in READI funding for projects across the five counties included in the RDA, which include Clark, Floyd, Jefferson, Scott and Washington counties.

Brenna LaDuke, community coordinator for the Town of Borden, said the town submitted three projects to the RDA, and two were selected in the top 18 priority projects submitted to the state in the regional plan. The town requested $4.5 million for the projects included in the READI grant.

“For a small town of a little over 800 people to have two submissions in a five-county RDA — we felt like that was big deal,” LaDuke said. “It’s an honor.”

She notes that it is not clear how the $50 million will be allocated for the projects included in Our Southern Indiana’s READI plan, and Our Southern Indiana will be given more direction early in the year.

One of the projects in the plan is Star Valley Destinations, which involves a variety of projects aimed to bring in tourism to the town. Star Valley refers to the area north of Starlight Indiana, at the base of Star Valley Way, a roadway connecting Starlight and Borden.

Muddy Fork Reservoir, a planned 184-acre lake, is a major part of the town’s tourism plans. The planned recreational site will border the north side of Borden Community Park.

The Muddy Fork Reservoir Conservancy has faced obstacles in obtaining permitting from the Army Corps of Engineers, which is needed to begin development of the project. The hope is for the READI grant to allow the conservancy to move forward with the permit.

The reservoir will include a number of amenities, including fishing, boarding, walking/biking trails and horseback riding, and it will also serve as a local water source and regional emergency water source.

“It will be fishing and nonmotorized boats, and it will eventually be a water source for our area, which we feel is needed,” LaDuke said. “We’ve been partnering with the Borden-Tri County Water Company, and they will be putting a plant on the front of it.”

A major piece of the destinations piece is the development of the Star Valley Event Center, a planned multi-purpose building on the south side of the Borden Community Park. The facility will include a tourism office, event/meeting space, internal/external restrooms, a kitchen/concessions area. It will be next to the park’s amphitheater, which is under construction.

The town asked for $500,000 for the event center and permitting for the lake.

Borden’s second project outlined in the READI plan is focused on infrastructure. The plan is to upgrade the town’s wastewater treatment plant and to fix sewer lines throughout the town and along Star Valley Way, which would connect to local businesses, including Joe Huber’s Family Farm & Restaurant, Huber’s Orchard & Winery, Smith Creek, Inc. and Koetter Woodworking.

“Funding sources for sewers for us is nonexistent, so when the READI grant came about, we were already working on a feasibility study to see if this was an option,” LaDuke said. “It really worked together where with the READI plan, this would be a great project for that to be funded by, because we can’t get any other sources.”

The town asked for $4 million for the infrastructure projects. As soon as Borden receives funding for the sewer improvements, it will be ready to get started, according to LaDuke.

According to the READI plan, the proposed Star Valley Destinations projects are projected to bring $1,019,192 in new tax revenue, $5,157,674 in economic output and impact, 80 new direct and indirect jobs and $1,248,777 in total new wages.

The sewer project is expected to add $3.8 million in new tax revenue, $37 million in economic output, 463 in new and indirect jobs, $18,903,029 in total new wages and 89 housing units.

The development of Star Valley Way, which opened in 2015, was one of the biggest single road projects completed by Indiana Department of Transportation, LaDuke said. It has opened up plenty of opportunities for the town.

The updated sewer lines would allow a number of projects to move forward, including a “shovel-ready” hotel to be located along Star Valley Way. The plan is also to bring in small retail shops at the bottom of the hill along the roadway, and there is potential for 100 to 200 houses in the area, LaDuke said.

There are also plans to revitalize the Historic Borden Museum, which is managed by the Wood Township Trustee, but it was not included in the READI plan.

In addition to the amphitheater and the event center, the town has other plans to improve Borden Community Park, including the addition of a dog park and a softball field for the Borden Sunshine Gang, a program that brings together local senior citizens. Recently, a new walking bridge was added to the park.

LaDuke said when the READI grant opportunity came about, it pulled together the cities, towns and five counties to build “an unprecedented trust between all of us.”

“It’s meant a lot to us, because we’re kind of like the small town way on the west side of Clark County that doesn’t get recognized with anything,” she said. “To be part of the larger unit, not just Clark and Floyd with SoIN, but to be part of the whole five counties and everything — I think that out of all of the 18 projects, I think we’re the smallest community — sometimes we’re like, wow, we did that.”

Huber’s Orchard & Winery, Starlight Distillery and Joe Huber’s already serve as tourism destinations, bringing in hundreds of thousands of visitors per year, according to LaDuke.

The Muddy Fork Reservoir would be an addition to other outdoor destinations in Borden, including 24,000-acre Clark State Forest and Deam Lake State Recreation Area, which features a 194-acre lake.

The creation of the South Monon Freedom Trail, a project also included in Our Southern Indiana’s READI plan, would also a be a big deal for the town. The trail would be an extension of the Ohio River Greenway and connect Floyd, Clark, Washington, Orange and Lawrence Counties. There would be a trailhead in the Borden Community Park across from the planned Muddy Fork lake.

Trails are also planned to connect Muddy Fork to Deam Lake and a trail going to Clark County Forest, LaDuke said.

“Borden is a really huge piece to the trail hub here in Southern Indiana,” she said.

The Star Valley Destinations plan is build a “length of stay,” LaDuke said.

“So people don’t just come out to the winery and just spend one day,” she said. “If we can build that length of stay, they go up into the winery, they go down and shop, they go to the park and go to the lake and come up with bicycles.”

Wendy Dant Chesser, president and CEO of One Southern Indiana, is also on the leadership team of the RDA, and she is impressed with the planning the Town of Borden has put into the Star Valley plans over the years, which were in the works before the READI grant became available.

“They have the opportunity to tap into the destination that Starlight is and grow into a broader, more fulfilling destination, which includes this whole Star Valley community,” she said. The Town of Borden has “a lot of gain” from a number of the READI plans, she said.

“From the population growth standpoint, we know that quality of place is a driver that helps people determine where they want to live,” Chesser said. “The more opportunities and options they have to live in Southern Indiana, the better off they’re going to be.”

“Some are going to live in more urban settings and want walkability, and others want more rural settings, but they also want the convenience that comes along with expectations these days,” she said. “What Borden’s plans give is a unique rural community with a walkability and livability piece to it that will attract people to live in Southern Indiana.”

LaDuke said READI funding for these projects would be a significant step for the town and the region.

“For the town, it would be monumental for the town to be able to get this funding, and it would bring in more revenue for the town and allow the town to be more self-sustaining,” she said. “We don’t get the funding that other towns and cities get. Everyone is very excited about it bringing in more economic development for the town, help the businesses that are already existing.”
© 2022 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.