| |

100s gather to protest Mid-States Corridor

Stella Mahar, 11, Haysville, took the opportunity to speak at the rally opposing the Mid-
States Corridor held in Downtown Jasper, Saturday.
<Photos by Matthew Crane.>

“People will lose homes. I don’t want to lose my home. When it is gone, it is gone forever,” Stella Mahar of Haysville told the crowd opposing the Mid-States Corridor Saturday morning.

The 11-year-old didn’t hesitate to grab the megaphone when the speaker before her asked if anyone else would like to say something to the crowd.

It’s personal for her. Stella’s parents, Atalie Schroering and Kevin Mahar, have a home in Haysville with 15 acres. Kevin is from Michigan and Atalie convinced him to move the family from Indianapolis back to her home in Southern Indiana. They did and settled on their dream property — what Atalie calls a miniature farm that features Stella’s goats, sheep, and chickens and miles of dirt track her son, Nash, rides daily.

Stella has also been waiting patiently for a horse barn to be built so she can get horses but with everything potentially in the path of the Mid-States Corridor, that has been put on hold indefinitely.

The corridor’s potential for disrupting Atalie’s family’s life, as well as so many others in Dubois County, brought her into the fight to oppose the project.

“You know, there are still a lot of people that don’t know this could take their property or will be near their property,” Atalie explained the importance of Saturday’s rally.

Henry Vollmer, Huntingburg, 7, held a sign he and his grandmother, Sheila Wendholt, made for the rally held in Downtown Jasper this past Saturday. Wendholt’s family farm is in one of the potential paths outlined by the group conducting the Tier I study to narrow down the potential location of the four-lane highway.

She’s also appalled that the process is continuing even as the area continues to grapple with the constantly changing reality of a pandemic.

“What’s the most disturbing about all of this is it just feels like in the midst of a pandemic, you wake up daily with those, you know, worries and fears,” she said. “Then we wake up every day and on top of that [pandemic] think like, ‘Is this just going to be a road through my house? Where am I going? Where can I go find 15 acres and a home and take my mini-farm?'”

Holland Town board member Melanie Barrett (left) stood in front of the courthouse Saturday morning. Barrett pointed out that Holland had a fantastic park and was about to open a new splash pad. The potential destruction the highway could wreak by bypassing small towns like Holland is very important for the lifelong community member. She wants people to stop in and enjoy the town’s wonderful park. On the right, Jeff Stant, executive director of the Indian Forest Alliance, spoke at Saturday’s event. He pointed out that of the 25,000 letters received regarding the construction of I-69, more than 23,000 opposed it. He used that fact to drive home the importance of the public becoming involved in the political process that ultimately determines the fate of the highway through Dubois County.

That reality brought her and Dan Smith together as the part of the group running the Facebook page, Stop the Mid-States Corridor Project.

“I’m not for it going left, right center, anywhere,” Dan said.

Dan got involved in February after he attended a meeting at the Jasper Middle School and saw one of the routes cutting his family’s 130-acre family farm in half. The farm sits west of the Huntingburg Airport.

“That green dot (on the map) is mom’s house,” he said. “That’s mom’s dining room table.”

The farm was established in 1854. Dan lives in the home his grandfather, Alvin Elshoff, was born in.

“Grandpa was born on the dining room floor and he died pretty close to it,” Dan said pointing out that the highway could destroy it.

Mike and Cheryl Sermersheim stood in the rain during Saturday’s rally opposing the Mid-States Corridor. Her family farm — Tom and Esther Kellams — just received recognition as a Bicentennial Hoosier Homestead Farm. It could be destroyed but they were there for all the people who will be impacted by the four-lane highway.

That sentiment is what brought so many people out to the courthouse Saturday. People with different backgrounds, different political views, all with a common thread of a connection to home that could be destroyed or changed radically forever whether the highway physically touches their land or not.

“This has brought a lot of people together that otherwise wouldn’t know each other,” Dan said. “Republican. Democrat. It doesn’t matter at this point. We’re all friends and we’re creating a strong force against this. We want a voice in this. We want our voices to be heard. Peacefully.”

Atalie wants more information and more transparency. She wants the public to know what is going on so they can voice their opinions at the ballot box.

“It’s hard to swallow when you elect people and find out they are part of groups who want to take our farmland and houses and cemeteries and
businesses,” she said.

MaLea Wagner, Holland, held a sign pointing out the estimated $19 million per mile cost of the highway along with the many other social impacts that money could go towards rather than creating a bypass that may cut about seven minutes off of the drive time north.

The Mid-States Corridor project is a proposed, four-lane, limited-access highway that would run north from Owensboro, Kentucky, and through Dubois County to eventually connect to I-69. The planning for this highway began in 2011.

The Lochmueller Group was hired to conduct the Tier I study and narrow the path of the proposed highway down to a single option. In February, the group announced five options to the public. In Dubois County, two run west of U.S. 231, two run along U.S. 231, and one runs east through the county towards French Lick. The options will be narrowed down to one proposed option this fall during which time public comments will be taken during a public hearing.

The crowd had dwindled down from about 200 to a little over a 100 in the pouring rain that hit Jasper about halfway through the planned two-hour event. However, the message of opposition wrapping around the courthouse had done its job of sparking more support as passing cars honked, flashed a thumbs-up out an open window or issued waves of encouragement.

7 Comments

  1. The opposition needs an alternative 231 plan; 4 lanes between Jasper and Huntingburg; add passing lanes for trucks every few miles and straighten some curves. B. Kemp

  2. Anyone that enjoys a day or weekend at Potaka Lake, takes I-64 to Louisville or Evansville, or even highway 64 to Princeton, remember people lost homes and farms then as well. People generally only care when it happens to them. Otherwise it is someone else’s problem.

  3. Driving through Dubois county from Cuzco to Holland or Ireland to Birdseye and everywhere in between you can see signs in every yard  that say NO MIDSTATES CORRIDOR. Its obvious that the majority of Dubois county individuals do not want this Corridor built. The same things can be seen in the surrounding counties as well, and if you ask anyone if they approve of the Midstates Corridor, the answer is NO 9 times out of 10.

    It can clearly be seen that Dubois county and it’s surrounding neighbors DO NOT want the Midstates Corridor. Jasper is a small city with a big attitude, and 95 percent of people like it this way. Let’s keep our city safe. Safe now and  for our future generations.

  4. I don’t even live in DuBoise County, but I work at a trucking company there. I remember when I69 was planned. The people didn’t have a choice. It’s government and is called imminent domain.
    I’m facing the same thing in my county in Colorado about redoing and widening Colo Highway 92. The state did a survey that cost Lord knows how much of our tax dollars about changing this and taking out this driveway etc and the residents are completely opposed to it. But imminent domain preceeds anything we oppose. So my yard will be torn up to become a passing lane. I know how the residents in du Boise county feel. Just keep yelling loud. Someone may hear you

  5. I drive all IN and KY roads every single day as a machine repairman. I was mad when they connected Evansville through Bloomington. It only saves 10 mins getting to Indy. US 231 needs to be 4 lane all the way to Lafayette. Also, US 50 needs to be 4 lane from Washington to North Vernon. That would gain us buisness from Owensboro, Henderson, Vincennes, Cincinnati. If you want something for French Lick then take Tell City to Bedford with 4 lanes. Kentucky is booming from Hawesville to Owensboro. ALL THE GREAT PAY is around us and Up and Down I-65. It makes me so mad that I can get to Indy in the same amount of time it takes to get to North Vernon. I know a lot about how this all works. Dennis Heeke told me before he died that the only reason I-64 runs south of the Lake is so a local large motor company could build another facility in Crawford County. They need Patoka water or it couldn’t be built there. Why don’t we do what the citizens want, not what the 5 rich guys that don’t care about you want. We need roads to bring better jobs. This county is ran by the five main companies that won’t give you another nickle on your paycheck. I can make $70k/yr anywhere but Dubois County with an associate’s degree. That’s BS. We need bigger corporations with new fresh CEOs that are willing to not just take our land without anything in return. It took getting Mike Braun elected just to get the roads paved through this county. Build it, but build it for the right reasons. Help All Of Us!!!

  6. There is a date in the future that we will not have the farmers and farm land to produce enough food for the worlds population!

Comments are closed.