Old ammo plant cleaned up for new use
Aerial view of the former Indiana Army Ammunition Plant.

By Jon Fleshman
Louisville District

The Army’s transfer this year of 2,300 acres from the former Indiana Army Ammunition Plant (INAAP) to a local development authority was another milestone on the region’s road to business and recreational opportunities. Louisville District is managing INAAP’s environmental restoration and real estate disposal for the Base Realignment and Closure Office.

"This land transfer is one of the most important events in many years for the southern Indiana region because this means new jobs and tax dollars to grow," said Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman during a ceremony on Sept. 21. "By utilizing this land, you’re turning this old military plant into an economic development engine for the entire surrounding southern Indiana region."

Site control was originally accomplished by a long-term master lease, said Marc Elliott, director of the River Ridge Development Authority. RRDA is the economic development agency responsible for converting the former ammunition plant into a business park called the River Ridge Commerce Center.

"Site control is now being perfected by the purchase of real estate from the Army," Elliott explained. "Land acquisition is important because most prospects prefer to own rather than lease."

Access to all transportation modes and a workforce from a one-million-person metropolitan area increases the potential for development, Elliott added. The site is three miles from the Clark Maritime Center river port, a dozen miles from downtown Louisville, and 16 miles from that city’s international airport and United Parcel Service hub.

He said the most likely businesses to be attracted to the property include automotive parts manufacturing, fabricated metal products, warehouse and distribution, furniture manufacturing, and processed food and beverages.

INAAP encompassed about 9,790 acres on the banks of the Ohio River near Charlestown in south-central Indiana, about 10 miles north and upstream of Louisville, Ky., said Chris Inlow, project manager for Louisville District. The district is managing INAAP’s environmental restoration and real estate disposal. The plant was built during World War II to manufacture propellants and explosives, and operated throughout the Korean and Vietnam wars.

At its peak, INAAP employed more than 27,250 people, but by 1992 the work-force was down to 380. Congress declared the property excess in 1998 and authorized 6,000 acres of the property to be conveyed to the River Ridge Development Authority for economic development, and other parts of the property to be used for expansion of the Charlestown State Park.

The park had its beginnings in 1993 when the state took a deed for 859 acres from the Corps. In 1994, the state received a lease for an additional 1,125 acres, began construction on the first park facilities in 1996, and opened to the public that same year.

An INAAP land transfer from the Army to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources in 2004 doubled the park’s size and made Charlestown Indiana’s third largest state park.

"With the addition of these 2,600 acres today, including the new access to the Ohio River, Charlestown State Park is well on its way to becoming one of the crown jewels in Indiana’s park system," said Indiana’s governor at the time, Joe Kernan, at the land transfer ceremony.

About $3 million in improvements to the park were to begin immediately, Indiana officials announced, including construction of a boat ramp and upgrades to roads and parking areas.

"The river access by itself is attractive to fishermen and boating enthusiasts, but when it is combined with a half-mile boardwalk and three scenic overlooks, we expect Charlestown State Park to be one of southern Indiana’s best recreational attractions," said John Goss when he was director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

With so much interest in developing the site for business and tourism, the Corps’ project manager felt the pressure to keep the environmental cleanup and real estate disposal on track.

"A lot of the challenges of this project have been schedule related," Inlow said. "When you’re dealing with federal agencies both here and in Washington, DC, along with local and state agencies, it’s hard to get concurrence quickly."

Inlow said it also helps to have Bert Edwardo on his project delivery team. Edwardo is chief of the Louisville District’s military branch in its real estate division and oversees the lease administration with the RRDA and the land transfers.  Teri Flener, who works in Military Branch, and Lisa Patrick from office of counsel, are the key members of the project delivery team responsible for preparing the land transfer documents.

About 750 acres have been targeted for transfer to the development authority in fiscal year 2006, Inlow said, and the Corps is also continuing the environmental restoration of the facility. One more significant cleanup project is planned for next fiscal year. After that, all that will remain is the disposal of those buildings contaminated with explosives, and environmental monitoring activities.

"For years, the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant played a significant role in the defense of our nation and employed thousands of people from the surrounding communities," said Col. Ray Midkiff, Louisville District Engineer. "These recent land transfers provide new economic and recreational opportunities for Southern Indiana and are a remarkable success. The excellent cooperation between local, state, and federal agencies made this possible and everyone has the right to feel good about what has taken place so far."