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A 60-YEAR VISION APPROACHES ITS FINAL, SUCCESSFUL CHAPTER.

By Irving Materials Inc.

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This 1956 aerial image shows the McCordsville Quarry one year after its opening surrounded by farms, open land and the undeveloped Geist Reservoir. 

Every good business plan starts with a vision. And that was certainly what Irving Materials Inc. (IMI) had when it opened its aggregate mining operations in McCordsville, Ind., in 1955.

But this vision evolved into something beyond traditional business planning, turning into a one-of-a-kind industry model for how an aggregates and concrete supply company can spur residential and commercial property development, support community growth and, ultimately, provide an environmental resource that will serve generations.

The McCordsville Quarry story started with its founder, C.C. “Skunk” Irving, and was later led by his son, Pete, and the IMI Aggregates management team. Purchasing the quarry’s land from the Marina Limited Partnership of Indianapolis, the company started by building a concrete plant and extracting sand and gravel from this 475-acre location on the far northeast side of Indianapolis. The quarry served as IMI’s first corporate headquarters until moving to nearby Greenfield, Ind., seven years later. By 1968, local aggregate demand was great enough to expand into commercial grade crushed stone production.

Critical to its history, the McCordsville Quarry is located adjacent to Geist Reservoir, a 1,900-acre lake constructed in 1943 by damming nearby Fall Creek to provide water for Indianapolis. Upon its completion, Geist Reservoir was the second-largest man-made lake in Indiana, providing approximately seven billion gal. of water to the greater Indianapolis community.

Function Combines with Vision

Purely from a functional level as a quarry, IMI Aggregates’ dual mining operation in McCordsville continued until 1993 when the gravel supply was depleted. By 1995 with Class A crushed stone still in high demand, the quarry was deepened to include production of Class A stone and a new plant was built to handle the quarry’s production, which ultimately exceeded more than 1.5 million tons annually. In addition, IMI Aggregates began dredging the nearby Geist Reservoir for mining materials and built another plant in 1996 to process the lake’s dredged material.

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IMI Concrete and IMI Aggregates have operated side by side at McCordsville for decades.

Yet from a visionary level in conjunction with Allen Rosenberg Sr., general partner and chairman of the board of the Marina Limited Partnership, IMI Aggregates believed the Geist Reservoir area with its natural beauty and recreational water capabilities held great promise for residential and commercial property development. Together, they established a plan early on for creating luxury housing neighborhoods adjacent to the mine, starting on the south side of the quarry pit with its lake views, and later on its north perimeter.

Establishing upscale housing next to an active mining quarry is rather uncommon in the aggregates industry. Many times, neighbors are concerned with operational blasting noise and vibrations, truck traffic and equipment noise. Recognizing this at the outset, IMI Aggregates took a proactive approach to mitigating any potential issues.

IMI Aggregates Vice President Steve Crane, who has worked at the McCordsville site for more than 20 years, explained:

“Typically, quarries and homeowners do not co-exist in such close proximity to one another, especially considering the high-end housing around McCordsville. As the housing developments grew and more people moved to this affluent lakeside community, our company never lost sight of the value of being a good neighbor. We engaged in continual community relations efforts over the years; so much so that I’m not aware of a mining operation anywhere in the country where there’s such a close relationship with neighbors.”

Pete Irving, IMI chairman of the board, added: “We were extremely careful about our blasting and continually communicated with existing neighbors and new home buyers about the quarry’s operations. With so many people moving into luxury homes within a one-mile radius of our mining operations – not to mention the growth of commercial businesses serving these homeowners – we were very diligent about monitoring the pulse of the community and following up with any of their concerns.”

The quarry’s production grew with the housing and commercial property development. IMI Aggregates continually adjusted its mining operations as business conditions and residential lot sales expanded in the 1980s and 1990s, with the quarry’s sand and gravel providing much of the aggregate required for nearby property development. The company not only established solid relationships with the growing community through such avenues as public quarry tours, but also nurtured a strong sense of corporate pride among its own team members, several of whom live in these neighborhoods and have been a positive voice for the aggregates industry and IMI Aggregates’ operations.

“We always took measures above and beyond defined requirements to ensure nearby homes were under no stress from our blast shots,” said IMI Aggregates Area Manager Brian Duncan. “We also used incredibly quiet mining equipment and timed our operations to minimize the impact of dust, truck traffic and noise throughout the community.”

Just Like a Good Neighbor

IMI Aggregates wasn’t just any good neighbor for the Geist-area community. For example, for 15 years they dredged Geist Reservoir to not only make the lake a deeper and safer recreational asset for boaters and water enthusiasts, but the material removed from the reservoir’s bottom was used to support local neighborhood infrastructure needs, including aggregate for roadways, home construction, schools, parking lots and retail developments.

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IMI Aggregates’ dredging operations at Geist Reservoir improved the lake’s environmental health and provided much of the sand and gravel supply for the area’s residential and commercial property development.

Established and implemented through a comprehensive approval process that involved Indianapolis Water Co. (which operates the reservoir’s dam for downstream water processing), IMI Aggregates’ Geist dredging operations not only extended the lake’s life and recreational viability, but also demonstrated the company’s commitment to environmental stewardship which is ingrained at every one of its plants and quarries.

“For example, while we never encountered any environmental issues in dredging the lake, we used vegetable oil on the dredge’s hydraulics since it would not harm the reservoir’s marine life and vegetation. We also completely lit the dredge so that it was visible at night to avoid any potential accidents with lake users, especially as Geist became an increasingly popular recreational destination,” said Duncan.

“Our efforts to work in partnership with the community paid dividends for everyone,” said Crane. “You only have to look at the nearby housing and retail developments for proof that a mining operation and local community can truly cohabitate to mutual benefit.”

The Final Vision

In the mid-1980s, IMI Aggregates projected McCordsville’s stone, sand and gravel supplies would be exhausted by approximately 2012. As it turned out, the supplies lasted longer due to the economic recession of 2008, but will be depleted in the near future.

In June 2015, Citizens Energy (a successor company of Indianapolis Water) and IMI announced their final vision for the McCordsville site: Its transformation into the largest water reservoir opened in Central Indiana since 1968. When complete, Citizens Reservoir will store 2.7 billion gal. of water; more than 40 percent the storage capacity of Geist Reservoir.

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Taken nearly 50 years later in 2015, this aerial shows the greatly expanded quarry with its mining operations to the left of the original sand and gravel site, as well as the extraordinary residential and commercial property development throughout the Geist area. 

A study by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce indicated Central Indiana will need an additional 50 million gal. of water daily in order to meet the region’s growing demand during the next 25 years. Citizens Reservoir will provide up to 25 million gal. per day of additional water that can be used during the summer months across the utility’s eight-county service territory. Located immediately adjacent to Geist, Citizens Reservoir will also capture water now lost over the Geist Dam during periods of heavy rain.

“IMI Aggregates’ initiatives at McCordsville are a shining example of how a mining operation can work hand-in-hand with a community,” said Indiana Mineral Aggregates Association (IMAA) Executive Director Robert Jones. “For years, their dredging and quarrying work contributed to the development of beautiful neighborhoods, and supported a healthier water environment and recreational opportunities at Geist Reservoir. Now, they are providing a service to the water company and the greater Indianapolis community by turning over the site to become a drinking water resource for tens of thousands of people for years.”

In addition to the McCordsville Quarry, many of IMI Aggregates’ facilities have won numerous Gold Excellence in Mining Awards from the IMAA. These annual awards are given for efforts in reclamation, beautification, environmental stewardship, safety, and employee and customer satisfaction.

The story of IMI Aggregates’ McCordsville Quarry began – and will end – with a vision focused on careful planning, environmental responsibility and community-driven partnership. As a member of the Environmental Stewardship Council, every IMI Aggregates facility and operation is built with the end in mind.

“We look at each of our aggregate, sand and gravel sites with the perspective of what we can do with them after we complete mining operations. The life of our quarries must match local and regional development plans. It’s nice to return something in pristine condition back to neighboring communities,” said Crane.

IMI Aggregates President Bob Haldrup attributes the McCordsville Quarry’s visionary success, as well as that of its broader operations, to the company’s staff. “Thanks to the diligence and hard work of our team members working in sales, quality control, safety, dispatch, operations, maintenance and in our offices, IMI Aggregates has become an industry-leading producer of crushed limestone, sand and gravel, fine grind calcium, and golf course products. At McCordsville and all of our other locations, we leverage the experience of our outstanding people to produce the highest quality products, and support the success of our customers.”

Earl Brinker, president and chief executive officer of the Irving Materials Inc. group of companies, summed up the McCordsville Quarry’s 60-year history when he said at the announcement event for Citizens Reservoir that “it’s incredibly gratifying to see this location culminate in a community asset that will serve future generations. It amazes me how the plans Pete and Skunk Irving, in conjunction with Allen Rosenberg and the water utility, put in place so many years ago are approaching an exciting conclusion.”

Information for this article courtesy of IMI Aggregates.