Henry David Thoreau would be sympathetic, maybe proud, with the creativity of a recent nonviolent protest concerning the proposed Mounds Lake reservoir project.
About 50 environmentalists grabbed paddles, kayaks and canoes to drift down White River on a relatively lazy, if slightly rainy, Saturday morning. For four hours, they cruised the river from Daleville to Anderson to call attention to a natural beauty that could be forever altered by building a dam west of Scatterfield Road.
In a project that is estimated to cost between $300 million and $400 million, the river would be backed up to create a reservoir to supplement Indianapolis’ water supply.
In Saturday’s “paddle protest,” activists urged organizers supporting the project to evaluate the feasibility of the plan. Some of the canoeists were focused on the possible damage to the ecology of White River and surrounding natural elements.
While the reservoir project can revitalize Madison County and create new revenue streams and jobs, the project developers — mostly the Anderson-Madison County Corporation for Economic Development — must assure residents that all concerns are being addressed. Ecology and life along the river has to be at the forefront.
Reservoir proponents are currently seeking non-binding resolutions of support for a second phase study from the five affected local government units.
Debate should be welcome. So should smartly organized protests that, in this case, ask questions while serving to educate.
Going back to the mid-1800s, Thoreau, of course, was known for living a simple life for two years at Walden Pond in Massachusetts. From that experience, he wrote “Civil Disobedience,” a primer on civil rights, and essays on nature. Protest, to Thoreau, came from a personal sense of conscience.
When a sense of ethics mixes with nature, we get canoes and kayaks floating down White River. Paddling down a creek with an anti-reservoir sign might not be a significant display of civil disobedience. It is, however, an appropriate and original way to draw attention to the ecological concerns that surround the Mounds Lake plan.
This “paddle protest” might have seemed little more than water enthusiasts finding a reason to canoe for a weekend getaway. But 50 activists found an inoffensive way to bridge ecological concerns with a savvy protest.