Historic rock wall saved after Troubleshooter Investigation - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Historic rock wall saved after Troubleshooter Investigation

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Carol Dunn Carol Dunn
Erin Combs with Troubleshooter Eric Flack Erin Combs with Troubleshooter Eric Flack
Kathy Eaton-McKalip Kathy Eaton-McKalip

LEXINGTON, IN (WAVE) - A southern Indiana landmark slated for demolition is being saved after a WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Investigation. The State of Indiana planed to tear down a 100-year-old rock wall to make way for a new bridge. But after I exposed claims transportation officials pulled a fast one to try and get that project done, the state has agreed to preserve the wall, but not everyone is happy about the way it's being done.

The Indiana Department of Transportation said it couldn't stop plans to build the new bridge. The people of Lexington, Indiana said they couldn't imagine their town without the wall that has come to define it. The compromise reached after I started a WAVE 3 Troubleshooter investigation will preserve history - sort of.

By some accounts the rock wall dates back to the late 1800's. For residents like Erin Combs, it's a part of the fabric of Lexington.

"When you think of home," said Combs during an interview in March, "this is what you see when you come into our little town is this stone wall."

The wall is standing in the way of a new bridge over Town Creek in State Route 203. The state of needs to replace the bridge because it is outdated. The bridge sits on land that use to be owned by a local preservationist group, the Friends of Englishton Park. The group sold the land to INDOT believing the state was going to build the bridge around the wall. They were wrong.

"We mistakenly gave them the right to knock down the wall," board member Carol Dunn said.

When they found out the states plan included tearing down their wall locals mounted a campaign to save it, which included contacting me on Facebook for help. So I went to Kathy Eaton-McKalip, INDOT's deputy district commissioner, who admitted the state never fully disclosed its intentions when they made the deal.

"I think the current people that are there, I don't think they had any idea," Eaton-McKalip said.

After our investigation began, INDOT put a 30 day hold on the project to look at ways the wall could be saved. A few weeks ago, INDOT announced the bridge replacement would move forward, but the wall would move back. INDOT agreed to shoulder most of the cost for taking down the wall stone by stone, and moving it onto Englishton Park's new property line. The compromise is getting mixed reaction from the townspeople, many of whom said a rebuilt wall isn't the same thing.

On The Friends of Englishton Park's Facebook page, Heather Freeman wrote of the plan: "That's not right, it's a part of history. And James Baxter Junior added: "they killed history."

But in an email, Eaton-McKalip said this was the only way.

"We need the (right of way) in order to meet clear zone requirements," she wrote. "If these requirements are not met, we'd jeopardize our federal funds."

Combs, who has lived in Lexington all her life, defended the plan. Her Facebook post reads: "It's better than losing it completely." L.L. Lowry, who is part of the Englishton Park group that unwittingly gave INDOT the right to do this in the first place, added, "Although it is not as we would wish, it is the 2nd most favorable option we could hope for."

INDOT is in the process of getting bids from companies that specialize in tearing down and rebuilding historic structures. Work to save the wall, and to replace the bridge, is scheduled to start in June.

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