“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.
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?'”
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.
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.
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.