News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

December 28, 2013

EDITORIAL: What’s next for Terre Haute?

With river celebrated, community should channel momentum

TERRE HAUTE — Earlier this month, organizers and participants in the 2013 Year of the River celebration reflected on one of the most successful community efforts in Terre Haute in decades, maybe ever. There was a lot to consider.

In 12 months, 310 events occurred. They ranged from large festivals to serene art exhibitions in the city’s riverside Fairbanks Park. At a rate of almost one per good-weathered day, the observance raised awareness about the Wabash River’s cultural, economic and environmental value. Its ecological concerns, from trash dumped on its banks to its water quality, got much-needed time in the spotlight, too. The project — spearheaded by Art Spaces Inc. — Wabash Valley Outdoor Sculpture Collection, Arts Illiana and Rose-Hulman’s Permanent Art Collections — won’t disappear on New Year’s Day. With commitment, the activities and objectives it spawned will become traditions and fixtures on the riverscape.

At that Year of the River recap meeting earlier this month, another consideration came up. What’s next?

Of course, folks who drove Year of the River deserve a chance to catch their breath. The broader community, though, should take their template for action and apply its power to another important initiative. The celebration kept rolling not only because of its leadership, but also through its grassroots appeal. People are passionate about the Wabash; they’ve just never had such a unifying venture to rally around. The next project should stir souls, too.

Some interesting ideas for 2015 and beyond got pitched at the Year of the River recap, and others will undoubtedly bubble up in the weeks ahead. (Yes, planning can’t wait too long. The arts groups unveiled the 2013 Year of the River concept in August 2011.)

One possibility mentioned was year-long sustainability awareness campaign — headed by the Our Green Valley Alliance for Sustainability — highlighting the community’s energy use, waste handling, walk-ability, access to local foods, social justice and environmental stewardship. A worthy cause, for sure.

Other potential targets?

Hauteans reminisce deeply about the downtown district, what it once was, what it is now, and what they wish for it in the future. They envision more shops, eateries, grocery outlets, clubs and entertainment venues, all with evening hours, to supplement the momentum already under way by the existing businesses and museums and galleries. Passion exists in those desires and memories. Maybe a Rediscover Downtown in 2015?

The city possesses a rich musical history, dating back to the days when bands entertained at dance clubs around the city as far back as the 1920s and ’30s. Opportunities to experience live performances are less frequent now. Some great spots currently host live music, but Terre Haute could encourage a renaissance by celebrating the outstanding musicians that emerged here, reacquainting the public with historic venues of the past and present, and forming a strategy to bring more concerts by local, regional and national artists to town with a year-long push. Perhaps a 2015 Year of Music?

You may want to grab some aspirin before contemplating this idea. … Got it? How about 2015 Year of the Railroads? Not only have trains helped build and supply the city throughout its history, but they now complicate the quality of life here. The community could examine the railroads’ legacy, and also devote an all-out, 12-month concentration to repositioning the tracks to more efficient, less disruptive locations.

Maybe you like one of those, or have your own ideas. Send responses as a Letter to the Editor by email to opinion@tribstar.com. Don’t wait. A new year is already upon us.

 

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