Charrette gives Milltown look at future
In late April, a group of outside experts ‘ architects, historical preservation officials, urban planners and artists ‘ joined together in what was termed a ‘charrette’ to provide a vision of what Milltown someday can become.
Defined by ‘The World Book Dictionary’ as ‘a gathering of various people in a community, industry or other form of organization, to resolve common problems with the assistance of outside experts,’ the word charrette comes from 19th century France, when student architects often worked feverishly on their projects until the last minute, even as they rode in carts, or charrettes as they are called in French, to school.
Last Wednesday night, town residents and officials, as well as a couple of the outside experts, met to review the list of ideas that was borne from the charrette.
‘These people looked at the town with fresh eyes,’ said Milltown resident and business owner Mark Woods, who led the review session.
The all-day charrette, on April 29, included a walking tour of the town in the morning so the visitors could see firsthand the places mentioned in the town’s comprehensive plan. Then, in the afternoon, the guests came together at the town hall and, having broken into three groups, with each focusing on a different section of the town, exchanged ideas and sketched their visions onto paper.
Woods, displaying three large maps, one for each of the groups, first detailed the suggestions of the group that looked at the west side of town, beginning at the caution light on S.R. 64.
The group, he said, pointed to the beauty of the drive south of the highway on what becomes Milltown’s Main Street, noting a sign should be erected indicating the historical significance of the curved bridge, until passing the town’s maintenance equipment area located at the former dump site. Woods said it was suggested that trees should be planted to obscure the area’s chain-link fencing.
Perhaps more immediate is the need for informational signage at the turnoff from S.R. 64 to let people know how far the town is off of the highway, as well as what businesses and attractions are there. The group that looked at the east side of town made a similar recommendation, Woods said.
‘That is something the charrette people said, they couldn’t tell what was in Milltown and they couldn’t tell how far it was,’ he said.
There also were several recommendations concerning the ‘very historic area’ at the bottom of the hill just past the maintenance area, Woods said. The area includes the old lime kilns as well as the former site of the railroad depot.
Woods said it was suggested to erect interpretive signage to mark the depot. He added that, although the old lime kilns are privately owned, historical preservation officials have indicated there may be state funds available to keep them available to public view. Ideas for the entire area included a farmers market and live shows.
Greg Sekula, director of Indiana Landmark’s southern regional office and a member of the group that looked at the lime kilns, said that he would prefer they be in the town’s hands to prevent further deterioration.
‘I think most of us felt very strongly that the town should strive to acquire that property because of its significance,’ he said, noting they are an ‘important part of the history of the community.’
Jean Melton, a member of the town council, said that may not be possible, but, ‘If you can’t acquire, you can partnership.’
The first group also urged the town to turn the old railroad levy on the Crawford County side of town into a river wall for bicyclists and pedestrians, possibly connecting the downtown to the old depot site, Woods said. He added that old large rocks that the town possesses could be used as steps onto the levy by the bridge.
‘It’s a lovely view of the river down there,’ he said.
Woods then gave an overview of the suggestions of the groups that looked at the other side of town, from the east entrance off of S.R. 64, as well as the downtown area. That group also suggested utilizing the area along the Blue River for walking and biking but also envisioned it having an amphitheater, he said. Stones could be used as seating in the hillside, with the stage area along the river’s edge, Woods said.
Woods added that an arts grant may be available to purchase a portable stage that could be operated by a single person. He noted that other communities that have purchased one have then rented them to neighboring towns for festivals and other events.
Woods noted that it also was recommended that the town pay homage to its namesake. However, instead of constructing an expensive replica of the old mill that was torn down years ago, it was suggested that a sculpture, perhaps of corten steel, which strengthens as it rusts, be erected along the Blue River. Again, he said arts grant funding may be available for the project.
Some of the other recommendations included adding planter areas on both sides of the bridge, revamping the downtown parking area to include tree-lined pedestrian walkways, replacing the trees along Main Street with stronger London planes, building a children’s playground, erecting a memorial to veterans near American Legion Post 332 and creating a sculpture garden and sitting area.
‘It’s really a good start,’ resident Bill Byrd said of all of the ideas, adding that he supports everything that was proposed.
Curt Hudson, president of the town council, said that even if half of the suggestions become reality, he would be pleased. He noted that the town’s population is shrinking, down to 811 from 932 a decade ago, and Milltown needs a vision for the future. People, he explained, need a reason to come to Milltown.
Hudson cautioned that much of what was proposed involved private property, which makes things more difficult. However, if nothing else, improving the aesthetics coming into town ‘would be a tremendous upgrade from what we have,’ he said.
Woods presented the town council with a binder prepared by Indiana Landmarks that included the suggestions. In addition, the three large maps of the town with the proposals are available for viewing at the town hall.