Reconnecting to Our Waterways: The Learning Curve

By Julie L Rhodes

Collective impact director,

Reconnecting to Our Waterways

A bridge spans Pogue’s Run
in Spades Park.

This is the first of what will be a regular column in Urban Times to share information about the work of Reconnecting to Our Waterways with those who live, work, play and worship in the publication’s area.

As you read last month, I’m ROW’s newest, and first full-time, collective impact director. What you may not know is that I’ve lived a half block from one of ROW’s waterways, Pogue’s Run, for almost three decades – I can see it from my kitchen window!

But until the city put in the pedestrian bridge on Dorman Street over Pogue’s Run about a decade ago and cleared all the brush (as part of the Deep Rock Tunnel/Combined Sewer Project in Highland Park), I really didn’t give the “creek” that much thought.

I was lucky enough to become aware of ROW about four years ago, when my neighborhood, Cottage Home, asked if I’d serve on the Pogue’s Run Waterway Committee. I worked with other volunteers on the Near Eastside to write a grant with ROW that ultimately resulted in the addition of permanent art pieces, a map, and a day of picnics along Pogue’s Run from Dorman and Michigan streets up to the Paramount School of Excellence off Brookside Avenue.

As a small cog in the overall ROW effort, I have to admit, I had no idea just how many community partners and volunteers were engaged in ROW’s collective. When I saw the position for the job I now hold, I explored ROW more deeply and was thrilled to learn how expansive and impactful the efforts have been throughout our community. And, since taking the job, I’ve been pleasantly surprised (and amazed) that there are people and groups all along the waterways making great things happen.

ROW began about six years ago, working to connect neighborhoods near six Indianapolis waterways (White River, Central Canal, Pogue’s Run, Pleasant Run, Fall Creek and Little Eagle Creek) through various elements (aesthetics, connectivity, ecology, economics, education and well-being). We have organized groups of volunteers around each of the waterways, and around each of the elements.

The work is focused on our neighborhoods valuing the waterways that run through our communities. These committees are engaged in a variety of projects, from bridge improvements along trails, as is happening along the Pogue’s Run and Pleasant Run trails; to removing invasive plants to unveil the long-lost beauty of the waterways, as is happening along Fall Creek and White River. And, a Steering Committee of 17, made up of Indy’s most impactful organizations and people (such as Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, White River Alliance, Visit Indy, Central Indiana Community Foundation, Citizens Energy Group, Groundworks Indy, Big Car Collective, just to name a few) are providing leadership and strategic direction to ROW.

Indy’s skyline is the view from Pogue’s Run as it passes through Holy Cross

ROW looks forward to sharing with Urban Times readers so many of the projects and programs and efforts happening along those sections of the waterways that touch the newsmagazine’s neighborhoods. We invite you to engage in our committees, sign up for our monthly newsletter, follow us on Twitter and Facebook (@ourwaterways), or just grab a book, put your pup on a leash, or plan your next bike ride along one of Indy’s best kept secrets, our waterways. Learn more at

As Indianapolis is planning its vision for the future of the White River, which connects all of ROW’s waterways, we invite you to attend public meetings for input on the river’s future. You can find more information about upcoming events to share your input at

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