The Newport Chemical Depot in Vermillion County was a topic of concern for many of its 69 years, right up to the day the military vacated it on July 18, 2010.
The instantly fatal VX nerve agent that was manufactured there from 1961 to 1968 and stored there until the last vestige was destroyed in 2008 was, quite justifiably, a life-and-death concern to the region. Generations of residents were educated about the horrific dangers that would follow were a VX incident to occur.
Thankfully, through a combination of planning, execution and good fortune, the destruction of VX was completed safely and deliberately. The fears of catastrophe — while palpable and healthy in terms of public awareness and influence on the process — were unrealized.
We all can breathe easier that VX is yesterday rather than today, and that the depot land can turn from weapons of war to implements of industry and preservation of nature.
Now coming true is a land reuse plan called Vermillion Rise Mega Park, many details of which were filled in by the Newport Chemical Depot Reuse Authority Saturday at an open house on the 7,155-acre property near Newport.
The land now offers the promise of environmentally green natural space and economically green jobs space.
Of the site’s 7,155 acres, 3,730 are devoted to park space, farming, forestry and undeveloped open spaces. An “Indiana Bat Protection Zone” takes up 2,194 of those acres.
The remaining 3,425 acres are eyed for business, technology, conference and commercial development. That means industry and related businesses. Such job development is vital everywhere, but the Newport area needs help recovering some of the jobs lost from when the depot closed, jobs that reached thousands in number in the 1940s and 1950s, much fewer in more recent years.
Of course, we trust business developments on these acres will fully protect the environment in ways compatible with the nature acreage at Vermillion Rise, and we’re sure that is the Reuse Authority’s intent.
The dual reuse plan seems to reasonably recognize two goals that need not be in conflict — to grow jobs for an economically stagnant part of the state and to let nature rule in fields, forests, thickets and streams. Both will be for the betterment of the community.
Just as those who brought the VX era to a safe end, those who have devised the Vermillion Rise plan over recent months deserve the region’s thanks and support. We can’t wait to see what rises at Newport over the coming months.