are you people?
for Terre Haute consists of people from all walks of life who are
concerned with preserving the Terre Haute parcel of land.
The members are not professionals and do all this work on a strictly
volunteer basis. These people consider this issue important
enough to take time out from their busy schedules to donate their
time and effort.
What is Terre Haute?
is a parcel of land that consists of over 630 acres of mixed forest
and wetlands centered around Bogus Mountain and adjacent to the
Eureka reservoir. More importantly though, it is the center
of several thousand acres of undisturbed land. To put
that in perspective, the Terre Haute property is roughly five times
the size of the Bethel school complex. Overall, Bethel is
roughly 11,000 acres, so the Terre Haute piece consists of roughly
1/20th of the total land area. While this is not virgin forest,
the forested sections are mature, old growth forests that are central
to the local ecosystem.
Haute also sits over a natural aquifer that many local people draw
well water from. The natural wetlands and the forest cover
help make sure that the aquifer can recharge itself so that the
water table doesn't drop.
Why is it currently in danger?
Terre Haute is threatened
by development. Current zoning could allow many types of commercial
or residential uses of the land which would permanently and negatively
impact the ecology and uniqueness of Terrre Haute and the Town of
Bethel. Terre Haute has also been considered as a site for a "community"
golf course. The course proposed by the Golf Authority called
for a 27 hole, 18 normal holes plus a 9 hole "short" course,
professional level course consisting of roughly 150 acres.
All land in the parcel would be controlled by the Golf Authority,
consisting of roughly 350 additional acres of land.
Why is preserving this piece of land so important?
There are multitudes
of reasons for preserving Terre Haute in its current state.
The most important ones are to safeguard the water supply, to
provide recreation for local residents, to preserve the rural character
of the town, and preserve the local environment. Each of these
is discussed in more detail in the subsections below.
Preserving Water Quality
Haute drains into three different watersheds, the most important
of which is the Eureka watershed. Bethel draws much of its water
from the Eureka Reservoir. Terre Haute also drains into the Norwalk
River and Sympaug Brook, which provide water to several other areas
downstream. By removing the buffer from around the Eureka
Reservoir, many contaminants could make it into the water.
Run-off from roads could introduce gasoline, tar, oil, salt and
many other chemicals. Run-off from nearby homes could introduce
pesticides, herbicides, and household chemicals not to mention all
kinds of litter and yard waste. If developed as a golf course,
chemicals from that could easily contaminate the reservoir.
These include herbicides, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides,
and other chemicals used in maintaining turf grass.
Any kind of development
in the area could be a potential risk to the local water supply
because of the blasting that would be necessary to level the site.
Extensive blasting might upset the water table and cause nearby
wells to run dry.
Preserving the Rural Character
about 36% of Bethel is undeveloped. The undeveloped land largely
consists of forest or marshy areas, not cleared lots. If Terre
Haute is developed, that number could drop to a mere 16%.
Compare this to the 1950s, when 92% of land was undeveloped (numbers
courtesy of the Bethel Plan of Development). The rapid urbanization
of Bethel has changed the character of the town from that of a rural
farming community to a suburban one. Further development of
such open space could result in Bethel transforming into a fully
urbanized town, suffering from urban sprawl and with no clear definition
of where the actual town is anymore.
Obviously that much
undisturbed land contributes greatly to preserving the character
of the town. Imagine, if you will, what that land could look
like fully developed. It's currently zoned R-80, which means
it could, theoretically, be broken into 250 two acre lots.
If we consider that such houses, in general, will be bought by married
couples with one child (on average, since some will clearly not
have children) that is 675 new people in town or roughly a 3.5%
increase in the overall estimated population, or fully one third
of the TOTAL growth over TEN years.
This is not an entirely
improbable scenario with the current zoning of the land. This
could happen, but not necessarily in such a direct fashion.
Part of the concern with the golf course, which would have only
used part of the parcel, was that it would become extremely desirable
to open up the rest of the property to development so people could
have mansions next to the golf course.
Growth is, in many cases,
good. But by opening up that large a piece to development, extremely
rapid growth could occur. This puts a strain on the town as
there would be a sudden increase in traffic, demand on city services,
and an influx of children into schools. Gradual growth allows
the town to keep pace with increased demands. As is, most
growth in Bethel is fairly gradual because there are few parcels
of such size available for development. Suddenly opening up
20% of the total land area for development could be very problematic.
and more people are becoming interested on outdoor recreation, both
as a means to relax and as a way to get some exercise. Such
a large piece of undeveloped land offers many opportunities for
people to see the great outdoors without having to go very far to
do so, a major plus with many people's hectic schedules. Rather
than needing to drive hours away, people can stay right in town
and find undeveloped lands teeming with wildlife, interesting kinds
of flora, and scenic ponds and streams.
For the more athletically
inclined, this offers a large area in which to mountain bike or
hike. Is it better to go to the gym and workout while staring at
a wall, or have a whole woodland to explore while getting your exercise?
In its current state, it's also a wonderful area for orienteering,
rock climbing, or running with your dog. Depending upon how
the land is eventually dealt with, less sensitive areas could be
partially developed (primarily through the placement of trails)
for horseback riding or cross country skiing in the winter.
The area is also be
opened up for hunting and fishing in designated areas. Some
areas could be opened as sites for primitive camping. There
are many low impact recreational activities that could be carried
out on the Terre Haute property without any further development.
While golf is a recreational
activity, it is very limited one. The proposal put forward
by the Golf Authority called for a professional level golf
course, one that would not appeal to most area residents and that
would render much of the property unusable for other activities.
There was, at one time, a small community golf course on the edge
of the property, but it fell into disuse and an industrial park
was built over much of it. This seems to indicate that Bethel
would not be able to sustain a golf course of any sort as the one
they had was not used.
Haute connects to several other large pieces of undeveloped land.
Many animals depend upon large areas of unbroken land to survive.
This includes nesting areas for many birds, including migratory
and song birds. Some predators also depend on such unbroken
land because they need large territories to hunt in. Smaller
predators known to be on the property are foxes, bobcats, and coyotes.
Because of the sheer extent of the property and the adjacent pieces,
it could also sustain black bears and mountain lions, though none
has been positively sighted on the property. The problem with
many of these species is that they are scared of people and there
may only be two or three in a 500 acre area so the odds of anyone
personally seeing one are slim.
Terre Haute has been
partially surveyed for biodiveristy, but only plants were included
in the original assessment. Four endangered plant species
were found on the property, along with many other rare ones.
Several other rare animals also make their homes in Terre Haute
including spotted salamanders which rely upon vernal pools for their
Vernal pools are seasonal
pools that form only during the wet part of the year. This
delicate little pools are usually only a few inches deep and serve
as breeding areas for many kinds of amphibians. These pools
are so crucial to these creatures because they are seasonal and
thus do not have fish in them, which would otherwise eat the eggs
of the amphibians.
What can I do to help?
and volunteer to help educate others about this important
area. You can go use the area so other people see that it's
not just useless empty land. You can vote against measures
that would open Terre Haute to development. You can write letters
of support to the local media, and you can vote for elected officials
who support smart growth and open spaces.