West High Corner

Whew! There’s a lot going on there! Very little of it good… To orient you, if you’re not local, this is the curve north of Lake Latonka, where S.R. 17 begins to run east towards Plymouth and Sycamore Road continues north towards S.R. 30.

Property at SE Corner of West High Intersection highlighted in cyan.

So I don’t bury the lead, the initial reason for writing this was a John Oliver style, “Why is this Still a thing?” rant. I came around this corner from the East the other morning on the way to work, in the dark, to find a school bus stopped to pick up kids from the house on the inside of the curve on the SE corner of this intersection. It wasn’t very visible to me until I was almost on it and it would have been worse for someone coming from the South. The best case for this is this time of year when it’s dark and the bus’s flashing lights are reflecting off of everything. At twilight, the danger doubles down.

This property just recently changed hands. I know things get grandfathered in. I know it’s cold out and kids don’t want to walk far, so the closest point to the house is the preference. But there is a significant piece of property here with an alternate driveway. Barring getting rid of this dangerous driveway, can’t the school bus pick up at the alternate driveway off the curve?

West High Fireman’s Memorial at Night

This intersection has always been dangerous. The memorial at the northwest corner of the intersection commemorates the 5 fire fighters that gave their lives at that intersection in 1982. The truck they were in took the corner too quickly and went into the swamp on the west side of the road. This was the worst single-event loss of life for a single fire fighting unit prior to the 9/11 terror attack. The permanent stone memorial included lighted flags and was dedicated in 2014 It replaced 5 wooden crosses on a utility pole near the crash site. It is somewhat fitting that this memorial is quite striking, yet somewhat eerie when lit up at night.

West High before it’s 2023 demolition.

It will be interesting to see how long the West High Corner moniker remains in use since the referenced school is gone. The Northeast corner of the intersection was home to the West High School, named for West Township. Many people were sad to see the school go away this past year. I have to agree that it was frustrating that it couldn’t be repurposed, but location is everything and is often the case with structures like that, its highest and best use was as a school. I could not find documentation, but my recollection is that the school corporation sold it at auction for $1,500 in 2005. From there, the buyer stripped most of the things of value from the building. It became a door and trim shop after that. The Covid pandemic ended that. Most recently it was purchased by Jackson Salvage, which made it go away… except for the slabs and foundations. All that remains is a memorial with a bell and well along Sycamore Road to commemorate the school’s previous glory.

Am I the only one that found the juxtaposition of this crooked MUAC sign pointing at the partially demolished West High building amusing? This sign went up as the building was coming down…
Historic West Township Trustee’s Cabin

The property on the southeast corner referenced at the beginning of this post was the former location of the original West Township Trustee’s home; a log cabin that was just recently relocated south to Memorial Forest. The picture to the right shows the cabin during reconstruction as new roof framing was placed. The recently formed Marshall County Parks and Recreation Department tried to have it relocated onto the West High site, but there weren’t sufficient funds to make the deal possible.

As attested to by the lost fire brigade, the West High Corner is to be respected. The two exits/entrances onto S.R. 17 from Sycamore Road are also treacherous. From experience, the southernmost connection is the most dangerous and least respected as I often see cars exit or come onto S.R. 17 without stopping. West bound cars cannot see that intersection until they’re into the curve, so if they are taking it quickly, there’s often near misses. In icy winter conditions, this is even worse.

Culver Chamber proposal to extend SR 17 north along Sycamore Rd with a gentle curves to align with Rose Rd

In the mid-1990’s, the Culver Chamber of Commerce petitioned the Marshall County Commissioners to improve Sycamore Road to give Culver more direct access to S.R. 30. For a time, this was a collaborative effort between the Town of Culver, Ancilla College (now Marian College), Culver Academies and Swan Lake Resort. One option for this was to attempt a trade-off with INDOT, changing Sycamore Road into the north end of S.R. 17 and the east/west portion from West High to Plymouth would have become a county road again. This would have had many benefits including an intersection fix at West High, an improved route to S.R. 30 from Culver, fewer driveway accesses, and an easy aerial railroad crossing. At the time, Marshall County had already broached INDOT through MACOG about the Pine Road extension. And also at that time, Plymouth didn’t want to give up the benefits of INDOT maintenance on the main street through the City. (Plymouth is having second thoughts now as their Complete Streets Committee wrestles with the pedestrian issues associated with this.) With the completion of the Pine Road extension to S.R. 17, this initiative is unlikely to be considered. Some of the property that was vacant has been developed, further hindering this right-of-way acquisition.

I don’t see a good solution to this intersection in the near future. At a minimum, I would still like to see something done to eliminate the school bus stop in the middle of a State Highway curve. This intersection doesn’t need another memorial…

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