Buck Creek Woods
Indy Legacy Forest At Risk
ABOUT THE BUCK CREEK WOODS
The Buck Creek Woods is a Highly Valuable Urban Forest. We Can’t Afford to Lose It.
The Buck Creek Woods is a remnant forest in Indianapolis. It can be seen in aerial photographs taken of Indianapolis in the early 1940s. Within the forest, huge, old trees line the beautiful Buck Creek and create a respite for wildlife including eagles, migratory birds, and more. Habitat of the same quality seen in the Buck Creek Woods is difficult or impossible to find in heavily-developed urban centers like Marion County, which makes this forest an essential corridor for urban wildlife and a important natural area for neighbors and residents across Indianapolis to enjoy.
IFA’s Forests for Indy Urban Forest Inventory ranked the Buck Creek Woods as the 35th highest quality forest in Marion County for ecosystem services out of the 4,237 forests analyzed. Modeling found that only 34 provide greater benefits for wildlife, more heat absorption, and control of stormwater and pollution than this forest.
An industrial warehouse development proposed by Becknell Industries is now threatening to ruin this forest and the natural riparian corridor of the city’s proposed Buck Creek Greenway. If the Metropolitan Development Commission (MDC) of Marion County approves the requested zoning change for this project, it will allow a massive 1.2 million square foot trucking distribution center to be built directly adjacent to the Greenway and this remarkable forest.
Allowing Development to Destroy the Buck Creek Woods is Directly Opposed to Marion County’s Stated Commitment to Protect Environmentally Sensitive Areas.
Sensitive natural areas in Indianapolis are being destroyed at an alarming pace because there is little will to enforce the Marion County Comprehensive Land Use Plan (aka, “the Comp Plan”). From 2015 to 2020, the Metropolitan Development Commission of Indianapolis approved 1,658 variances, rezoning requests or building permits in locations identified as “environmentally sensitive areas” in the Comp Plan. Typically forests or wetlands, these are areas where the Comp Plan says developments should not occur.
The next example of such an approval concerns a variance to allow for residential land to be rezoned to industrial use so that a massive trucking distribution center can be built on 199 acres that is within or directly adjacent to a high-quality forest in the floodplain of Buck Creek in the southeastern corner of Marion County.
The staff of the DMD have waived off the facts that the Buck Creek Woods is an “environmentally sensitive area” and part of the Buck Creek Greenway corridor whose natural character is to be maintained according to the Comp Plan. They are supporting the variance to allow this massive building and parking area to be built, much of it in the floodplain, as long as the developer provides a 50 foot buffer on the west side of the property along Buck Creek. This is despite the fact that uncontrolled runoff from the “Five Below” trucking distribution center just built immediately south of the site in Shelby County, is damaging the forest and causing the worst flooding ever experienced by residents in the area.
This Development Project Puts Greenway Plans At Risk.
The Buck Creek Woods is in the riparian corridor identified in City’s Full Circle Greenway Plan of 2014-2024 and two previous city greenway plans to become the Buck Creek Greenway. The Full Circle Greenway Plan is part of the Transportation Element of the Comp Plan and thus its objectives are supposed to guide the city’s zoning decisions. The Full Circle Plan emphasizes the recreational and aesthetic value of the natural wooded corridor along Buck Creek. It states:
“To date, the wooded areas along much of the stream have remained intact creating a unique, natural environment for the new greenway. Along its course, it will pass through forests, wetlands, meadows, and natural habitat areas for several different types of wildlife. It will provide environmental educational opportunities if the current state of the corridor remains intact. . . . It will be vital to have zoning and development standards put into place to protect the corridor.” (page 114)
If Becknell’s warehouse plan goes forward, it could place a building spanning up to 26 football fields in size and towering up to fifty feet tall directly along the path of the Greenway. This peaceful recreation area, now used by Indy residents to find respite in a portion of Marion County’s highest quality greenspace, would be flooded by round-the-clock semi traffic noise and light pollution, which has been shown to be highly disruptive to wildlife.
Record Flooding for Forests and Residential Areas Adjacent to Development.
The highest average volume of flow ever recorded by the US Geological Survey in Buck Creek occurred in 2019. A similar but smaller development, the “Five Below” trucking distribution center built immediately south of the Buck Creek Woods in Shelby County, has already caused the worst flooding ever experienced by residents in the area. This project, located in the Buck Creek floodplain, is likely to worsen the flooding, which can eventually drown many of the trees in Buck Creek Woods and harm residential property.
The Buck Creek Woods is already battling increased flooding. Previously the forest only flooded seasonally. In these photos from summer 2022, we see the Buck Creek Woods flooded during the driest part of summer. The propose warehouse development will only make flooding issues worse.
It is time for the citizens of Indianapolis to demand that the Metropolitan Development Commission and its staff at the DMD enforce the Comprehensive Plan and stop granting endless variances that damage forests and other environmentally sensitive areas in Indianapolis. Becknell’s rezoning petition was set to be heard at an MDC hearing on September 21, 2022, but the issue was continued until the November 2, 2022 hearing.
The room was packed at the September 21 hearing by concerned citizens opposing the development that could destroy the Buck Creek Woods. Forest advocates showing up to this hearing and expressing their opposition to the project through letters, emails, phone calls, and more was a key component that helped us buy more time to save the Buck Creek Woods.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS: HEARING SET FOR NOVEMBER 2, 2022.
It is essential that we pack the room again at the November 2 hearing to save the Buck Creek Woods. Preventing this massive development from going forward is our last, best shot at saving the Buck Creek Woods.
IN THE MEANTIME…
Speak out for the Buck Creek Woods by contacting the Director of the Department of Metropolitan Development, Scarlet Andrews, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell her that you oppose the rezoning petition and request that her staff withdraw their support for this petition pending before the City of Indianapolis Metropolitan Development Commission.
Send copies of your email or letter to:
- For more information about this rezoning petition view the report and exhibit book.
- View a sample letter of what to say about Buck Creek.
- Read our testimony on the rezoning petition.
- Watch WTHR’s coverage of the Buck Creek fight.