Can You Dig It?

Speed bumps, a tale of two reservoirs, and backyard pet burials. Ask The Hoosierist.
The Hoosierist June 2011

Q: Is it legal to bury family pets in your own backyard?

Bobby T., Beech Grove

A: The Hoosierist congratulates you on your thriftiness, Bobby. And he queried his family vet, who stated that she knows of no regulations against such a sepulture. Her only advice on the matter was to “bury them very deep”—a point she reinforced with a horrifying personal anecdote about how a couple of neighborhood dogs disinterred one of her own dearly departed pets years ago.

John Althardt, spokesman for the Marion County Health Department, concurs that there don’t seem to be any laws regulating typical backyard pet funerals. Emphasis on the word “typical.” If you plan to, say, bury a horse, you might get into a legal gray area. Especially if starting a pet cemetery violates your neighborhood covenants. But in most cases, if you don’t do something crazy and high-profile, you’re not likely to have a Stephen King novel on your hands.

Q: Is it possible to have a speed bump installed on a residential street?

Jerry S., Indianapolis

A: That depends on how popular you are, Jerry. In Marion County, you have to call the Mayor’s Action Center, which will contact the Department of Public Works, which will ask you to get 75 percent of your neighbors to sign a petition in favor of the move. So those lawn ornaments you’ve been subjecting the block to will act as their own kind of speed bump in your quest.

But if you’re able to round up the necessary names, the city will send an engineer to assess your street’s bump-worthiness. You’ll get one only if 85 percent of the road’s daily traffic goes 35 mph or faster. But they won’t put obstructions on roads that handle more than 2,000 vehicles a day. So if you live on Meridian Street and want a speed bump, keep dreaming. And don’t even think about installing them on your own. On a couple of occasions, overzealous neighborhood associations have put in bootleg bumps, only to have them summarily ripped out by DPW. The city doesn’t take kindly to guerrilla road construction, and let’s face it, speed bumps are pretty annoying.

Q: Will White River State Park continue to develop? I seem to recall plans for an amusement park.

Susan K., Indianapolis

A: The Hoosierist well remembers the original White River plans, unveiled in 1981. The scheme included an amusement park called Indiana Landing, an immense fountain in Military Park, and, most impressive of all, a 750-foot-tall landmark structure called Indiana Tower. But the rides didn’t pan out, preservationists derailed the water feature, and Indiana Tower was reviled for its alleged similarity to a giant corncob.

Today the park’s 3 million annual visitors enjoy the Indianapolis Zoo, Indiana State Museum, and NCAA Hall of Champions. There’s precious little room for anything else. “Large structures probably aren’t going to make it into the park because there isn’t any space available,” says White River State Park assistant controller Alex Umlauf.

Of course, there’s always the chance that, sometime in the future, the park might expand by acquiring adjacent property. If it does, The Hoosierist strongly supports construction of the much-maligned Indiana Tower. Because what some call a giant corncob, the Hoosierist calls a retro-kitsch masterpiece. And who cares if it harkens back to the days when Indy was known as a cornfield with lights? A town that deliberately makes its NBA arena and NFL stadium look like overgrown high-school athletic facilities can’t be too concerned about such things.

Q: Why is Geist Reservoir ringed with houses while Eagle Creek Reservoir has so few?

Allie C., Indianapolis

A: Eagle Creek got its trackless wilderness and Geist got its tract houses thanks to decades of political wrangling. To put it simply, Geist Reservoir was created in the 1940s, with the land surrounding it managed by a subsidiary of the Indianapolis Water Company. The group oversaw the gradual, decades-long sale of most of the reservoir’s shoreline for neighborhoods with names like Dinghy Dock and Coxswain’s Cove and [Insert Any Vaguely Nautical-Sounding Word Here] Pointe. The cash from such sales enriched the utility.

Eagle Creek Reservoir, which opened for business in 1968, took a different path. Designated from the get-go as a recreational venue and a drinking-water source, it was also contiguous to the already-existing Eagle Creek Park. Which meant that turning it into Geist West was unthinkable.

Q: Why has Circle Centre’s fourth floor become such a ghost town?

Thomas Z., Indianapolis

A: Blame it on a miscalculation. When the idea of a downtown mall was first floated in the early 1980s, detractors wondered if anyone would visit it. At the time, the area was about as lively as Tuesday-night bingo at the K of C. To counter the lack of street-level nightlife, Simon Malls created an entertainment complex on the fourth floor. In addition to a movie theater, the top level (when it opened in 1995) boasted everything from a video-game parlor to several nightclubs.

Trouble was, by that time the city had developed plenty of downtown entertainment options, making the Circle Centre attractions redundant. So one by one they dropped away, and now all that remains on the fourth floor is United Artists Circle Centre 9, Ruby’s Cafe, and Glow Golf. The Hoosierist sometimes pities those lonely souls working up on the fourth floor as he stuffs his face with Chick-fil-A and gazes at them from the food court below.

Illustration by Shane Harrison.

This article originally appeared in the June 2011 issue.