Culver Thoughts

I met some Culverites for dinner recently and they asked some questions that got me thinking. I thought I would share some of my thoughts here. I would credit them for some of this, but since I didn’t ask their permission, they get to remain anonymous. Probably safer for them anyway! Ha!

They wanted my thoughts on a new development in Culver. (One they wanted to pursue, not one of the current ones moving through the processes.) To be honest, I found myself struggling to stay positive. That was not the case 6 years ago when Culver was in the middle of their two Stellar applications. I was on those two committees and while there were some naysayers, as there always are, they were far outweighed by those with a sense of enthusiasm and camaraderie that pulled the community together.

To be clear, I don’t want to belittle what has been accomplished in the last few years. Culver’s Stellar designation has been parlayed into two grants awarded through the Regional Cities Initiative, at least five grants from the Marshall County Community Foundation and matching grants from OCRA, IHDCA and INDOT. So far this has resulted in a new Amphitheater in the Park, major renovations to the Beach Lodge, a new sports park with a playground on school property, new walking/biking trails as well as ancillary benefits not directly funded tied to Stellar, but resulting from Stellar.

When we first started down the path of toward Stellar designation, the scuttlebutt was that Stellar had the reputation of a “Mayor Killer”. In several communities that had attempted or received Stellar designations, the Mayor that promoted the effort was voted out in the next term. OCRA’s assessment of this was that this was mostly due to things not happening quickly enough, allowing opponents to point to the outlays involved with Stellar and profess there was no return on the investment.

Culver didn’t really have that issue as there were enough people involved in Stellar and enough of them understood the time lines in order to refute those claims. Ginny Munroe as our de facto Mayor didn’t let things languish and the town remained well informed about the progress. We’ve lost Ginny’s leadership at this point and there is a void with the Council.

Ginny began Culver Crossroads to chart the next steps for Culver, but I feel that it is losing it’s momentum. I initially served on two Culver Crossroads subcommittees which have fizzled out. One is gone and the second is really down to one person doing the work of the committee. The Culver Crossroads steering committee is also serving as the steering committee to revise the comprehensive plan and that feels like it is losing steam as well. It is odd, because I know there are people on that committee that are still motivated and excited about change, but my feeling is that this isn’t translating into much action between meetings.

On top of that, we have community members actively trying to sabotage input surveys with negativity. We have decent projects being opposed in public meetings and in some cases derailed by procedural attacks. We have seen project support pulled without discussion. All of these things are troubling.

To go back to the conversation I referenced above, I don’t feel like the town’s elected leaders and appointed boards have the same appetite for change that they did when Stellar started. They are still moving some things forward, but it feels like it’s being done with a more scatter-shot approach. We’re going back to dealing with individual things in lieu of pursuing our aspirations of bigger and better things. (Blue Zones is an aspirational project and the recent handling of that didn’t look good.) The three largest projects that are being worked on by the town are all projects brought to them by developers rather than projects they have specifically pursued to meet new goals. That’s a switch in mindset.

It’s not hopeless. It’s just harder than it was and harder than it needs to be. Culver Crossroads is working to create new aspirations for the town. Hopefully the town officials will embrace them and move them forward.

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