By Sophie Pappas
Last week the Indiana Department of Natural Resources held a public hearing to collect comments about the Ford Road Bridge project.
“We are here to gather information and comments regarding the construction and bridge replacements, and the associated road realignments,” said DNR Environmental Manager Brad Baldwin.
The DNR is responsible for approving or denying the construction of a new bridge based on three factors: if the action would harm fish or wildlife, if the action would destroy personal or public property and if it will increase flooding.
“We are aware that there may be additional issues to the project but we are not here to discuss those,” Baldwin said.
More than 50 people attended the meeting, many of whom are residents of the Hunt Club area and state that the reconstruction of a new Ford Road bridge would harm the natural resources. In addition, concerns were stated about how the realignment of 96th Street would harm natural resources.
Greg Zubeck, an attorney representing the Eagle Creek Nature Conservancy, spoke during the meeting. He said that there is ample concern over the mature trees that will be destroyed.
More than 30 trees will be moved if the application is approved as-is.
“Any trees that are 10 inches or larger in diameter would need to be replaced within a five-mile radius,” Baldwin said. “Immature trees will not be replaced.”
Several members of the audience raised concerns over the fish that would be harmed in Eagle Creek.
Baldwin said that the Division of Fish and Wildlife has experienced biologists who will evaluate how conditions will change, but said he cannot comment on the specifics of what the biologists will review.
Boone County Councilor Gene Thompson said that this is a Boone County project.
“In Indiana, bridge construction projects, even within municipal boundaries, are a county responsibility and are funded with either local bridge funds paid by county taxpayers or jointly funded with federal funds,” he said. “Input from the Zionsville Town Council is critically important and valued, but all decisions on this project will be made by the Boone County Commissioners and County Council.”
“Everyone is aware that something needs to be done,” Thompson said. “And the people at this meeting who say that there will be more flooding at the area, well, don’t they know that there is already flooding there?”
The Ford Road Bridge project has been in the works since 1995, when the town recognized the need to replace the existing bridge on South Ford Road.