I have written about Thieme Drive on numerous occasions with my primary concern the construction of an atrocious, 1100-foot long, 10-foot high concrete wall along the river bank at the intersection of West Berry Street, Thieme Drive, and Nelson Street.  But Thieme Drive has two issues that involve the St. Marys River – the wall is one of them.  The second is the erosion of the river bank at the southwest end of Thieme Drive.

Those who travel Thieme Drive on a regular basis – or live in the area – can’t miss the “Road Closed” signs at each end of the drive.   The signs warn of the critical condition of Thieme Drive at its intersection with West Washington Boulevard.  The approaching shore stabilization project, which has been let for bids,  represents the culmination of years of starts and stops – many of which were impacted by the lack of federal funding.

The Thieme Drive river bank erosion issue begins at the southwest end of Thieme Drive where it intersects with West Washington Boulevard and runs for approximately one block northeast to the intersection of Thieme Drive and West Wayne Street.  The river bank has eroded from the natural processes of the river’s flow as it curves like a serpent through Swinney Park, along the southern edge of the Nebraska Neighborhood, and along Thieme Drive.

Rivers – no matter how slow they appear to meander – exhibit a natural process called “cutting” and “depositing.”  As a river flows, two forces work on the sides of the river banks.  On the inside edge, the river flows at a slower pace and drops – deposits – its load of silt, rock, and any other materials that have been bounced and carried along.  On the outside edge, the river flows at a faster pace, carving – cutting – into the outside edge of the bank and carrying away soil and undercutting tree roots.

The process is a natural cycle and, ultimately, over thousands of years, will result in the curves coming so close to each other that a heavy flash flood will bisect the curvature, and an ox-bow lake will be born.  The Google Earth image below shows the exaggeration of the river’s curves as well as the area of the river bank stabilization project.

The stabilization project using gabion baskets is a much-needed repair of the river bank.  The downside will be the probable destruction of many of the trees along the bank.  The equipment necessary to work on the project will no doubt require access which will require removal of the trees.  I am hoping that the Corps will take it easy on the existing vegetation, especially the long-standing elms and cottonwoods.

Now as to the other issue – the flooding at my intersection – I will continue to fight against the erection of a concrete wall and the destruction of 1100-feet of river bank.  Period.


About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
This entry was posted in Army Corps of Engineers, Environment, St. Marys River, Thieme Drive, West Central Neighborhood and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. john b. kalb says:

    Charlotte: Written on August 25th, 2010
    Is the work being done on Thieme Drive what you dscribed in this post? If so, are they going to put up the very objectional wall also? Are you going to comment again on how this will affect you and the others living in the area? I would like to hear your views.

  2. John:

    Here is an update of what is happening to Thieme Drive. Two projects are involved: the bank stabilization near West Washington and West Wayne Street is a Section 14 project, while the anticipated wall at my intersection is a Section 205 project.

    The work has started at the West Washington site, and, contrary to what we were originally told, all the trees in the one-block zone have been torn out. The DNR mandates that as much of the environment as possible be saved, and we were told that only a few larger trees would be removed. But who is the DNR when it is up against the Army Corps?

    The Section 205 project at my intersection will not be undertaken for some time because of lack of funding. It will not be a Corps project (well, at least it isn’t supposed to be) but is to be financed in some other manner. I filed two FOIA requests to obtain information – one in 2009 and a follow-up this past May. I have somewhat of a lack of trust issue with the City when it comes to Thieme Drive. I have fought a 10-foot wall for 5 1/2 years now, and I have been aided tremendously by my neighbors and my West Central Association, of which I am now vice-president.

    We came to a compromise, which I believe if completed, will beautify the entire drive without destroying it. While I much prefer to see the river bank left as is, the City’s continuous construction of levees and walls upstream of my location has forced the St. Marys to seek the lowest place to overflow. Before the completion of the Nebraska Neighborhood wall on the west side of the river, I rarely flooded. Once the wall on that side was completed, I flooded five times in six years – 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2009. Fortunately, this year nothing has happened so far.

    And, now additional projects have been completed, namely, the mile-long stretch running from the Baer Field Thruway to Foster Park and the project at Park-Thompson. Common sense tells one that if you wall off overflow of a river in one location, it will simply seek another low spot for overflow. And now, increasingly, that is my intersection.

    So, here we are – my neighbors and I and our neighborhood, in general – looking at a compromise that will not completely destroy the river environment.

    Several weeks ago, the JG had an article about the flooding. Dan Stockman had interviewed me and sent out a photographer to take a picture. The article was on the front page of the Sunday JG the July 4th weekend.

    The gist of what will happen is that a “knee wall” will be built with a height of about 3 1/2 to 4 feet and decreasing as it gets farther from the intersection. The knee wall will have the capability to hold tall panels if the river rises above a certain point. It is a system that is popular in Europe and is becoming more so in the U.S.

    The wall will be built in the middle of Thieme Drive with the River Greenway formalized on the river side of the wall. Thieme Drive will be converted to one lane to accomplish this. West Berry at my intersection will split at the intersection with a northeast turn leading to Main Street and a southwest turn leading to West Washington.

    A small landscaped island will be built at the intersection and will steer drivers left or right.

    I have a set of pictures of what the compromise solution will look like. If you would like them, I will forward them by email to you. I continue to say that I am “cautiously optimistic” about the solution.

    I hope this helps. I should do a blog article on the solution. But, as I am learning, retirement is making me wonder where I ever found the time to work full time. 🙂 I have become somewhat relaxed and need to get myself back into a schedule even if I am not working.

  3. john b. kalb says:

    Charlotte – Thanks for the August update. How is it going now? Looks like they are very busy as I see it from Washington driving past. Those are huge things they are burying in the bank! Will they eventually be covered up?

    Are you settling down as a retired person? Frankly, after 4 going on 5 years, I am still wondering where I ever found time to do any work!

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