ANDERSON — Most of the spectators at Wednesday night’s panel discussion about the proposed Mounds Lake reservoir were there to reinforce their opposition to the project. Others came to learn more about the issues.
Heart of the River hosted the program in the foyer of Reardon Auditorium on the Anderson University campus.
About 200 people were there to hear of ecological and archaeological concerns as well as an alternative proposal for a trail system from Anderson to Muncie.
Anderson resident Neva Nisely said she was opposed to creating a reservoir that would extend from the Mounds Mall area to Yorktown.
“I don’t want to see it happen,” she said. “I’m concerned about the people and businesses that are going to be upset by this.”
One of her concerns was about the impact on transportation and whether it would require residents from the north side of Anderson to take a circular route to the south side of the city.
“I have a number of concerns,” she said.
Nisely said there was nothing that supporters of the reservoir project could say that would change her mind.
Heather DeLorenzo, a student at Manchester University, said she was in Anderson with Jerry Sweeten, one of the panelists.
DeLorenzo worked last summer in the Muncie Bureau of Water Quality and heard a lot of mostly negative comments about the proposed reservoir.
“I think it’s a bad idea,” she said. “It will impact the river ecology. I don’t like it taking a third of Mounds State Park.”
DeLorenzo said she doesn’t believe the reservoir would be a boost to the local economy, and to attract tourism dollars the area should promote what already exists.
A proposed Mounds Greenway trail system from Anderson to Muncie, she said, is a good idea. She said the Muncie Greenway attracts a lot of visitors.
Mary Banning, a regional planning student at Ball State University, said a lot of people on the campus are talking about the lake proposal.
“I’m here to learn about it,” she said. “I think it’s a cool idea. I’m familiar with the reservoir near Bloomington.”
Banning said she attended the panel discussion to learn about the opponents’ concerns.
“I don’t know,” she said when asked if she was in support. “I haven’t decided.”
Union Township farmer David Jones said his family has been farming the area for 60 years and uses no-till farming to preserve topsoil and control erosion.
Jones’ concern is that the reservoir could act as a “big funnel,” causing water to back up.
“This could happen all around the reservoir,” he said. “It will impact farming, septic systems and wells.”
Jones said if there is a large rain event and the reservoir is full, water will back up into field tiles and create ponds on farm ground.
“Planting is time critical,” he said. “It could delay planting into May or June.”
Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, said creation of a trail system along the White River with recreational opportunities would cost a fraction of the projected $450 million for the Mounds Reservoir.
He said the reservoir project could result in the destruction of 1,000 acres of forest land.
“The White River is a jewel,” Kharbanda said. “Mounds State Park is the ninth most visited park in Indiana.”
If the reservoir is not built, the White River and Mounds State Park will continue to be threatened, he said, adding the area should be preserved.
Kharbanda said the Mounds Greenway would be one of the best in the Midwest and offer economic development opportunities for communities along the river.
Combining with the existing trails in Anderson and Muncie would create 109 miles of trails for people to enjoy.
“The Mounds Greenway improves the quality of life,” he said.
Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 640-4863.