by Anne Laker
It’s the outcome we have all been working for since last August. We are thrilled. On May 5, we learned that the amazing old-growth forest at Crown Hill North Woods will not be razed for the VA’s columbaria project. The new site is just to the east — the obvious choice for the memorial all along. This choice honors veterans by preserving our natural heritage, and it allows the project to remain in Crown Hill, a national cemetery. We are grateful to [thank them directly]:
– Secretary David Shulkin and Ronald Walters of the Veterans Administration in Washington DC for hearing the concerns of Indianapolis citizens
– Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett for speaking out in favor of the value of the forest to our community
– Sen. Joe Donnelly and Representative Andre Carson for their leadership negotiating a solution behind the scenes
– The Dr. Laura Hare Charitable Trust for offering the financial resources to enable a swap that would permanently protect the woods.
– The individual veterans who worked on this campaign throughout — educating their fellow veterans and making it known that a forest should not be destroyed in their name.
This positive outcome was also made possible by the hundreds of citizens — veterans, Crown Hill neighborhood residents, school kids — who picked up the phone, marched, picketed, wrote letters, and made signs — all speaking passionately about the good that forests do for our health, our air, and our quality of life. And how a forest like this can best honor our servicemen and women when left standing. Our message was heard!
We also thank the attorneys, biologists, and members of the media who sounded off about the Crown Hill North Woods.
The short-term preservation of Crown Hill Woods is also due to the collaboration of organizations including Mary Ellen Gadski of the Amos Butler Audubon Society, Lori Adelson of the Heartlands Sierra Club, Jesse Kharbanda of the Hoosier Environmental Council, John Gibson of Earth Charter Indiana, Clarke Kahlo and Angela Hermann of the Alliance of Crown Hill Neighbors, Carleen Carter of the Crown Hill Neighborhood Association, and Zach Adamson of the Indianapolis City-County Council.
The Crown Hill Woods Steering Committee is also to be thanked (they know who they are). This group met twice monthly, sacrificing a lot of personal time on behalf of the woods and plotting the course every step of the way, even when it seemed all was lost.
Now that the Woods is once again owned by Crown Hill Cemetery, the Indiana Forest Alliance and all our allies intend to work with Crown Hill and the Hare Trust to enable this forest to be permanently preserved. As we celebrate the announcement that it is out of immediate danger, the forest is not yet assuredly preserved for the future.