Going Green: Rediscovering the White River

The White River seen during a raft tour in Indianapolis (WTHR Photo)
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Most of us don't think of the White River as a place of recreation or escapism.

Sometimes, the only experience we have is driving over it. The river has been prone to litter and chemical pollution, but over the past year there has been a major effort to clean it up thanks for a $5 million Pulliam Grant.

"You can get involved in committees, participate in activities that are very localized in your neighborhood, or you can get involved in a larger scale through the Partners of the White River," explained Julie Rhodes. She's the collective impact director for Reconnecting to Our Waterways.

As part of the Pulliam Grant, Reconnecting to Our Waterways and the Friends of the White River purchased 15 floats and have organized on-water tours.

"Being on the river gives you a totally new perspective of what the river is and what it means for our community," said Kevin Hardie, executive director of Friends of the White River. "For a lot of people, the only way they've seen the White River is as they cross over a bridge, maybe going 30 mph and a blink of an eye, you've past it."

The river belongs to everybody and can be used in a variety of ways - and not just by floating on the river, but by visiting the parks, the cultural institutions, participating in clean-ups and hiking or biking along the greenways.

"We're here in what's a hidden jewel right above downtown, and that that's a section of White River at Riverside Park," Hardie said. "What we're doing is showing how we help people discover how that jewel can shine even more than it does right now."

Julie Rhodes, collective impact director for Reconnecting to Our Waterways
Julie Rhodes, collective impact director for Reconnecting to Our Waterways, talks to WTHR's Kelly Greene during a rowing tour of the White River. (WTHR Photo)

"It provides a really beautiful area right in urban Indianapolis for people to interact with on a regular basis, whether it's by bike, walking their dog, reading a book or walking their kids to school over a waterway," Rhodes added.

By improving access to the White River and creating awareness, the White River will once again be a destination for enjoying wildlife, recreation, exercise, relaxation, and tranquility.

This story is part of a new series, "Going Green with Kelly Greene," featuring environmental stories of our land, water and air in central Indiana, promoting greener living. If you have story ideas you want Kelly to cover, reach out to her on Facebook or Twitter, or email her at Kelly.Greene@wthr.com.