Conserving Mud Creek: Group works to preserve area, create Sargent Road Nature Park

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A nonprofit land trust is working to preserve land along Mud Creek, which stretches along Sargent Road between Fall Creek and 96th Street. The Mud Creek Conservancy’s most recent efforts, and possibly its largest to date, is acquiring 25 acres at 82nd Street and Sargent Road with the goal of turning the land into a park and nature trail.

Mud Creek Conservancy was founded 25 years ago as a spin-off of the Sargent Road Association, with the objective to preserve natural habitats in the Geist area.

“We have been preserving habitats, and up to this point, all the preservation has been done through conservation easements donated by the property owner, which permanently preserves the habitat without us purchasing the land,” Mud Creek Conservancy President Ben Miller said. “Typically, land owners and residents have a larger property, and they love their property and want to know whether they move or pass away that the property will always remain in its natural state, so this is a way we are able to do that working with those residents.”

Now, the Mud Creek Conservancy is working to purchase the property at 82nd Street and Sargent Road.

The 25-acre property planned for Sargent Road Nature Park includes habitats such as open meadows, forests and wetlands.

“It has some really unique natural features to it, but it also is one of the few, large undeveloped properties remaining in our area,” Miller said.

The Mud Creek Conservancy signed the purchase agreement in September. That action takes the property off the market, and now the group has two years to raise the $650,000 to complete the purchase. Those funds are the first phase of the project, which includes property acquisition and fees associated with studies.

“Phase 1 is to purchase the property, preserve that habitat and lay the foundation for a nature park,” Miller said. “Phase 2 would be to implement the parking area and a nature trail.”

The final cost for Phase 2 hasn’t been determined, but Miller said he wants to keep the park as prestine as possible.

“We want it to be low impact. We want to preserve the habitat but allow good access for the community to enjoy the property,” he said. “We are in northeast Indianapolis, and this property is centrally located to an area devoid of preserved natural areas and parks with trails. 82nd Street has brand new sidewalks to connect more people and more neighborhoods, so we are seeing more interest from the neighborhoods connected to (the proposed nature park).”

Sargent Road Association President Franklin Roesner, who also is a physician, is a vocal  advocate for the park.
“My interest is developing opportunities for healthful recreation. This is an area that has a real lack of that,” Roesner said. “We recently had development along 82nd Street, and with the improvements, we got our first sidewalk in the area, which is a great opportunity, but it stops at Fall Creek without connecting to a commercial center or to greenspace. Health-wise, we have rising rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, which are all related very strongly to trends in Indiana of having lower-than-average levels of physical activity.

“One of best ways to address this is creating healthy recreation opportunities.”

Roesner said the Sargent Road Association pledged $10,000 to the project. So far, the association is the project’s largest donor. As of press time, approximately 140 donors have raised just under $50,000 of the $650,000 goal. For more or to donate, visit mudcreekconservancy.org.

Various wildlife inhabit the 25-acre property, including birds such as indigo buntings.

A chance to explore nature

Mud Creek Conservancy President Ben Miller said the proposed Sargent Road Nature Park would be a place for people to explore nature.

Miller is a biologist who is passionate about wildlife.

“Species like box turtles, you don’t find them in an urban area, but because we have this long corridor of habitat, we have a unique opportunity to connect people to wildlife,” he said. “As a conservancy, one of our big missions is not just preserve (land) for wildlife but to preserve it for residents to observe nature, like the 60 different bird species they might find at that site.

“This is a voluntary effort to preserve natural areas in my own backyard.”

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