A railroad, a state championship, a new park and departures all highlighted 2017 in Noblesville and Hamilton County.

The Times took a look back and picked some of the top stories of 2017.

The Nickel Plate decision

In March, the cities of Noblesville and Fishers announced plans to build a pedestrian trail along 9 miles of the southern portion of the unused Nickel Plate Railroad.

The trail, that will run from 96th street in Fishers to Noblesville’s Pleasant street, will cost approximately $9.3 million dollars and take anywhere from 6-12 months to get approved by the Federal Surface Transportation Board.

Opposition began immediately after the announcement, with protests coming from the Indiana Transportation Museum, the former operator of the railroad, and grass-roots groups such as “Save the Nickel Plate.”

The transportation museum filed a federal lawsuit against the owners of the railroad – Noblesville, Fishers and Hamilton County – claiming violation of civil rights. The lawsuit was later dismissed.

In August, Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad was selected as operator of the northern portion of the railroad – to run between Atlanta, south to Arcadia then north to Tipton.

Nickel Plate Heritage is made up of a partnership between Arcadia Arts & Heritage Depot, a charitable non-profit which will serve as the non-profit operator of the railroad excursions under the name Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad Inc., and Atlanta Pacific Railroad LLC, a company owned by Thomas Hoback.

Currently a decision to rail bank the southern portion of the railroad is in the hand of the Fedear Surface Transportation Board. If approved, the trail can proceed.

Noblesville Marching Millers win State Fair Band Day Competition

The Noblesville High School Marching Millers are the Best Band in the State.

The 131-piece squad won the Indiana State Fair Band Day Competition in August.

The last time the Millers won the competition, President Harry Truman was entering his final months in office, Herman Lawson was the mayor of Noblesville and Noblesville’s population had just breached 6,000 residents.

The band’s program, “Sirens,” based on the ancient-Greek, mythological monsters, earned it four out of five caption awards, which are given to the band that scored the highest in each individual category.

For class AAA Noblesville took first in the musical, visual, general effect and percussion categories, and it received the second most points in the auxiliary category.

The Millers won with a score of 92.6 out of 100 points. The Force of Winchester, from Winchester Community High School got runner up with 91 points and the Jay County marching patriots, from Portland got third place with 90.75 points

Federal Hill Commons opens

Federal Hill Commons, Noblesville’s newest park opened to a packed house and fireworks in May.

The 6.5 acre space was filled with spectators as the Rugged Brothers Band welcomed people in. Activities included live music, a playground, bounce houses, and promotional booths for the Noblesville Parks and Recreation Department and Riverview Health.

Its become home to the Noblesville Farmer’s Market, played host to the summer concert series, and this winter the park added an Ice Skating Plaza.

Luke Kenley retires

Saying it has been coming for sometime, State Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) announced his retirement from the Indiana Senate in September, after serving 25 years.

Kenley represented Senate District 20, which currently includes portions of Hamilton County and has previously included portions of Grant, Howard, Madison and Tipton counties, since 1992.

Prior to his time in the Senate, he served 15 years as a Noblesville city court judge and two-and-a-half years in the United States Army. 

Kenley has authored numerous pieces of legislation over the course of his Senate career that have directly benefited Hoosiers across the state.

He helped lead efforts in 2003 to eliminate the state’s inventory tax and sponsored legislation in 2013 to do away with the state’s inheritance tax.

In 2008 and 2010, Kenley led the legislative effort to permanently cap property taxes for homeowners, farmers and employers, giving Hoosiers more predictability in their property tax bills and helping encourage economic investment in the state. The constitutional amendment authorizing the tax caps was approved by 72 percent of Hoosier voters on the 2010 statewide ballot.

In 2005, Kenley sponsored legislation that led to the construction of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, which attracts millions of entertainment and tourism dollars to central Indiana each year. The stadium’s construction was also key to Indianapolis hosting Super Bowl XLVI in 2012.

In 2006, Kenley sponsored legislation that created a tax credit of up to $1,000 for contributions to Indiana’s College Choice 529 Direct Savings Plan. Indiana’s college savings plan tax credit is widely recognized as being one of the most generous in the nation.

During his tenure, Kenley also helped reform Indiana’s Community Transition Program, which helps offenders successfully reenter society following their incarceration. More than 25,000 offenders have participated in the program since it was created in 1999. 

In November he was honored at Ivy Tech Community College, Noblesville campus. The college renamed its atrium Kenley Commons.

Seminary Park

A Noblesville park dodged a bullet in March.

The city had a proposal to convert a portion of Seminary Park to housing.

The city-owned park is at 200 S. 10th St., bounded by 10th, 11th, Division and Hannibal streets. The park was established in 1983. But the history of the park goes back to 1850, when Seminary School, the first public school in Hamilton County, opened on that property. The school building was replaced in 1872 with the second Seminary School, which eventually became Second Ward School.
The City’s plans were to sell .88 acres of the park’s 1.3 acres to a developer, who would build a single neighborhood with 12 homes there. The City would enhance the remaining .42-acre park area, with the existing gazebo moved or a new gazebo constructed, new fencing added on the west side of the park, and also new seating and a dog-watering station added.
But protests put the brakes on the proposal. Days after the proposal was announced, Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear confirmed the City would not pursue selling the park property to a developer who had expressed interest in building a single neighborhood of 12 homes there.

Kathy Kreag Richardson won’t seek re-election

House District 29 State Rep. Kathy Kreag Richardson (R-Noblesville) announced in December she will not seek re-election to the Indiana General Assembly.

Instead Richardson will run for the Hamilton County Clerks’ office.

Richardson was the first woman to serve in an elected Caucus leadership role in Indiana history. She was first elected to the position in 2000.

As Majority Caucus Chair, she was the leadership liaison between the members and staff, and help lead caucus meetings where she guided members in legislative decision making.

Her career started in 1976 as the Deputy Clerk of the Hamilton County Clerk's Office. By 1982 she was elected Clerk of Hamilton County and in 1992 she was elected to the House of Representatives. She continues to work in the Clerk's Office as the Election Administrator for Hamilton County.

She also serves on the Elections and Apportionment and Legislative Council.

During the 2011 legislative session, Richardson played a key role in drawing the new redistricting maps for the Indiana House, Senate and Congressional Districts to reflect the changes in population shown in the census data.

Richardson, a lifelong Noblesville resident, was once named one of five Outstanding Young Women for the State of Indiana.


Some of the most difficult stories The Times publishes every year, are those of our community icons passing away.

Here’s a look at some of the giants we lost in 2017

  • Don Roberts, a retired Noblesville High School aviation and industrial arts teacher, a proud veteran who served in the U.S. Navy, and co-owner of Noblesville Airport. He was also a father, a grandpa, an uncle, a husband and a friend to many. Portrayed Santa Claus each Christmas for 12 years and was in the Christmas Parade for many years including 2016. e was a member of the Navy Club, Experimental Aircraft Association, and Noblesville First United Methodist Church. Passed away Feb. 11.
  • Don Jellison, editor of the Hamilton County Reporter newspaper, was a sports writer and editor for the Noblesville Ledger and sports writer for the Times newspaper. Recipient of the Indiana District III Basketball Coaches Award for his outstanding contributions to Indiana high school basketball and received the IHSAA Distinguished Media Service award winner (for District III). Named to the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame, Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame and the Hamilton County Basketball Hall of Fame. Selected as the 2016 Noblesville Alumnus of the Year. Passed away Oct. 29.
  • Garrick Mallery, one of Noblesville Elementary Football League's founding members, finance chairman for construction of First United Methodist Church, a 4-H leader, and president and director of Noblesville Chamber of Commerce. ln the 1960's, he organized the Hamilton County Health Department, where he currently served as Chairman. He also organized the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District, and Hamilton Savings and Loan. Passed away Dec. 4.
  • Robert J. Denari, former Westfield basketball and golf coach. As a broadcaster, he served as a reporter for various professional golf and tennis tournaments, and was the host of an Indianapolis sports radio talk show. Passed away Sept. 17.
  • Kurt Bolden, former Noblesville firefighter, who was inspired to find ground-breaking ways to clean up after catastrophes, quietly made a name for himself as a powerhouse leader in the water damage-restoration industry. Passes away Feb. 15.
  • Gerald Terry, a music lover, with the help of family, friends and "back porch gatherings" he became adept at playing the jazz banjo. As a result he and his wife, Roberta purchased a vintage building in downtown Atlanta, and started the Atlanta Music Hall. Passed away Dec. 13.
  • David Fink, earned his Doctor of Dentistry degree from IU in 1964 and served his country as a Captain and Dentist in the US Air Force. Opened his dental practice in Noblesville in 1966 and practiced until 2014. He was also the Dentist for the Hamilton County Jail for 40 years. Past President of the Noblesville Optimist Club and Boys and Girls Club of Noblesville. He served on the Noblesville School Board for 12 years. Passed away May 31.
  • John Kennedy, Past Exalted Ruler of Noblesville Elks 576.  John served for 10 years on the Noblesville Alumni Association board, was Vice President and President, and was also awarded the Alumnus of the year honor. He spent several years gathering autographs of previous Mr. Basketball award recipients in Indiana, with the results of his efforts being auctioned off to benefit the Noblesville Boys Club. Passed away Oct. 18.
  • Mary Resler, taught music at North Elementary and retired teaching in 2004. In 1970, Mary began her 46 year career as Minister of Music at Noblesville First United Methodist Church. During her time at NFUMC, she created the Chancel Ringers, Clackers, Maryfolk (later the Sounds Unlimited), The Dirt Band, and also directed and wrote 25 Variety Shows. She also started a community theater program that was an outreach for the church, producing several Broadway productions. Started the weekly summer band concerts in Seminary Park. Mary was one of the founding members of the Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission. She also directed over 20 musicals at the Belfry. She was honored in May 2016 when received the Sagamore of the Wabash Award for her community and church activities. Passed away Aug. 12.

Finch Creek Park Fieldhouse

Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear called the ground breaking on a $24 million athletic facility one of the city's most important accomplishments during his time in office.

The Finch Creek Fieldhouse, 16289 Boden Road, is scheduled for a soft opening on Sept. 24, 2018, but officials are already thinking about the possibilities the addition of the 160,000 square-foot building could provide.
The fieldhouse will sit on 10 of the 200 acres at Finch Creek Park, a park the city plans to build, and will include two indoor turf fields, five hardcourts and 14 hitting and pitching tunnels.

The city and Klipsch-Card Athletic Facilities agreed to a public-private partnership in 2016 that will see the developer run the fieldhouse once constructed.

Finch Creek Fieldhouse will focus on baseball, softball, flag football, soccer, lacrosse and volleyball.

Noblesville purchased the 200 acres between 156th and 166th streets about a decade ago with the intention of constructing a park on the east side. The city is putting in about $5 million worth of infrastructure.

Equestrian Center/Tubing Hill Strawtown Koteewi Park

Strawtown Koteewi Park continues to expand its offering to the public, adding an Equestrian Center and Koteewi Run Seasonal Slopes to its menu of attractions.

K-Trails Equestrian Adventures opened this past spring. Owned by Noblesville horseman John Stewart.

He started the business — which is partnering with Koteewi Stable & Trails at Strawtown Koteewi Park in Noblesville — because he wants more youth and families enjoying the outdoors and to give kids “a great experience” like he had as a kid.
Koteewi Run Seasonal Slopes, at Strawtown Koteewi Park, 11800 Koteewi Drive, Noblesville, is being promoted as Central Indiana's only specialized snow-tubing facility.

The hill, which offers a 700-foot run. Guests will be assisted at a loading platform near the base of the hill, where they will be seated in a tube that is tethered to a lift system that will gently transport the rider to the top of the hill. There, the rider will be directed to an assigned "lane.”


IKEA, the iconic Swedish furniture store, opened its doors in Fishers in October, to huge fanfare, statewide media attention and a tent city that popped up three days before the store actually opened.

IKEA’s Fishers store is the 45th in the United States, and first in Indiana.

It’s economic impact on Fishers, and Hamilton County is expected to be substantial.

The store opened with 375 employees, 85 percent were hired locally.

Before the doors officially opened, Holly Davidson, store manager, welcomed the community with a traditional Swedish log-sawing ceremony, bringing good luck to the new store and its guests. In addition to brief remarks by Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness and Lars Petersson, IKEA U.S. president, Davidson was joined by State Rep. Todd Huston, who raised the U.S. flag; Honorary Swedish Vice Consul Anna Engstrom Patel, who raised the Swedish flag; and State Sen. Victoria Spartz, who raised the Indiana flag. Individual store co-workers sang the respective American and Swedish national anthems and “America the Beautiful” to accompany the flag-raisings.

Huston said IKEA has a regional footprint likely to help all businesses in the area.

“It’s going to help all local businesses, and I think will impact the entire region,” Huston said.