The following was extracted mostly from papers supplied to our Club by Barbara Storer, wife of one of our first members, John Storer:
The 1957 Eagle Creek flood was devastating to the Town of Speedway.
Early in 1960, we saw public disclosure of plans for the City of Indianapolis to build a reservoir on Eagle Creek for:
1. Flood Control
2. Water Conservation
3. Outdoor Conservation
This was later stated in Mayor Barton’s brochure of early 1965 promoting reservoir and park bond issues. As plans and property acquisition progressed, neighbors formed Eagle Creek Park and Lake Residents Association (PLRA) to informally collaborate with the City agencies involved. These several agencies met jointly as a Coordinating Committee…with the new Association represented at most meetings.
In 1968, these interactions led to a Park Board recommendation that private enterprise should establish a marina. Shortly thereafter, Master Planner Kennedy suggested that the Association form a sailing club.
Jack Bailey of the PLRA circulated a letter inquiring for those interested and as a result:
EAGLE CREEK SAILING CLUB!
In PLRA minutes (September 14, 1970): “Commodore Hornback of the Sailing Club reported that they now have 18 members and $2,400 of the $4,000 needed for construction. A regatta is planned for September 27th.”
Since the new reservoir and park were to be outside Indianapolis City limits, the City asked for and received enabling legislature from the State. In 1969, Mayor Lugar persuaded the legislature to support a City-County initiative …uniting all Marion County (except Towns such as Speedway) into a single government. Now, the park and reservoir are within City limits as of January 1, 1970.
Our original lease, signed July 2, 1970 by both Parks and Public Works Departments, defined property bounded N-S by 46th Street and the 815 elevation level…continuing then west to what now is Raceway Road. Early, we established a sizeable parking lot hilltop…our small lower level able to park only a few boats and trailers at that time.
To overcome serious lease defects, Parks and this Club then negotiated in 1977 an “Agreement For The Use Of Real Estate,” following Parks lease from Public Works of ground at level 815 and below. Property above the 816 level now clearly is public…not for our Club’s sole use.
The need for more contract security by ECSC and the need by Park Department for considerably more income, led to the current lease dated June 28, 1983. But first, the property was offered for sale by bids to Parks. ECSC was the only bidder.
Eagle Creek Sailing Club, after having the good fortune to acquire a fine club site, has prospered under mutually good relations with our landlord (Eagle Creek Park) as part of the Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation. Much credit is due to the democratic Club system under which all members are urged to share the load…and most do. Let the future of our Club remain in the hands of enlightened officers and cooperative members.
We can start to reflect on our Club’s 25 year history by referring to the Indianapolis Star’s September 25, l989 (here modified) article:
Just Sailing Along – Eagle Creek Boating Group Celebrates 20th Anniversary
Dr. Ned B. Hornback laughs when he describes his first race as a member of the Eagle Creek Sailing Club. It was a disaster. His skipper had put him temporarily at the helm of a Thistle-class boat, and he had no idea what he was doing. The wind, coming over the stern, caught the sail and swung it wildly around (an accidental jibe in sailing jargon). The boat capsized in shallow water. Hornback, his wife Shirley, and Jim Dora (the boat ‘s owner) couldn’t right the vessel because the mast was stuck in the mud. It was an absurd scene. Hornback said that the three of them sat helplessly on the hull of the boat inexplicably trying to keep a book dry. They had capsized near a race course marker. Every other boat in the regatta came closely by…close enough such that the other crews could read the book’s title: How To Sail!
lt was an inglorious beginning for the 3? year old would-be sailor…and Eagle Creek Sailing Club’s first Commodore. But, that’s what Hornback was…20 years ago. He also was the Club’s first official member. He still has his membership card with number one on it!
The Club was incorporated on September 26, 1969…as a not-for-profit group. Hornback was a member of the organizing committee…a group of about 20 people.
“They elected me Commodore of the Sailing Club, and I‘d never even been in a sailboat!”
But, he learned to sail.
As the founding Commodore, Hornback saw the Club through its infancy, and he maintained his membership for the first 10 years. Today, as a radiation oncologist in the Indiana University School Of Medicine in Indianapolis, he’s too busy to sail…and he’s no longer a Club member.
But, each year, the Club honors him with a namesake event…the Hornback Regatta!
He says the Club’s existence is an example of the good that can happen when a group of individuals and a government agency (in this case the Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation) combine their efforts. They were just putting Eagle Creek Reservoir in at the time, and some of the residents of the area were interested in what was going to happen with the lake. They were hoping for a passive kind of boating. They didn’t want the lake overrun with big, noisy, powerful motorboats.
Hornback, who had moved to the Eagle Creek area in 1963, said the Parks Department was interested in promoting the maximum safe use of the lake. He repeats a rule of thumb that was cited in those days: In passive boating (canoes, rowboats, sailboats, and light-motored fishing boats), a lake can accommodate 10 boats per acre of water. In active boating (fast motorboats), the ratio is one boat for each 10 acres. In short, this relatively small lake needed a sailing club.
Gaining access to the property itself wasn’t much of a problem, says Jim Rees, another early member of the Club.
“The Parks Department wanted us there. They did everything possible for us. When we made mistakes, they helped correct us. But, before we could do business with Parks, we had to have a club.”
In the first years, the Parks Department charged only a token fee for use of the property (which is south of the 56th Street causeway on the west bank of the lake). “They let us lease the land for $25 a year. Our other expenses were very low.” Hornback says.
John Storer, a retired General Motors engineer and another of the early members of the Club, said the fee eventually grew to several thousand dollars yearly. Hornback and Rees both also said the organization owes much to a group of experienced members of the Indianapolis Sailing Club based on Geist reservoir. The Geist sailors attended the fledgling Eagle Creek Club’s meetings and offered advice.
“We were almost exclusively a group of non-sailors groping around trying to develop this thing without knowing what we were doing.“ Hornback said.
Not surprisingly, the early days weren’t always marked by fair winds. At one point when the Club was having financial problems, the Parks Department had expressed some concern. Hornback called a special meeting by sending out postcards illustrated with a drawing of him as Commodore, standing forlornly in a sinking ship!
Nevertheless, the Club developed. Little by little, the members built driveways and parking lots. They installed a launching ramp and docks, and they built a small shelter house. In most cases, the members had work parties…using donated equipment and materials, and capitalizing on the varied skills of its members. Rees, for example, shared his knowledge of grasses and sods for the landscaping. He understood those things because he built/owned/operated Friendswood Golf Course near Camby. After the first docks were purchased, Rees built more docks himself.
This ends the information found in that 1989 article. Below is further information.
The Club now boasts 176 wet slips. Each member who doesn’t have a wet slip has a space to store a trailered boat.
Originally, the only road led from the hilltop to the beach and was a single lane…narrow, winding, and steep. Its gravel needed constant maintenance. A 1974 project under Jim Reeder as Harbor Master included a seawall, boat hoist, and a new, straight, 2-lane, less steep, downhill road!
The Telephone Company had donated several loads of scrap poles, most of which became dividers and barriers. One large nearly-new pole would become the base for the hoist. John Storer chose the location for the new road. Rees tractored the hill to the required grade which was eventually paved in 1973. Storer drew the plans for the seawall to include provision for the hoist pole…then designed and built the hoist itself around mostly scrounged materials.
After the seawall was complete, the hazardous job of erecting the pole was undertaken. A tripod about 16 feet high, made of smaller poles, was erected over the pole’s planned location. Tackle was rigged, and with the new pole having a line attached mid-length, Rees tractored back, lifting the pole until it could be positioned and lowered into its hole.
The Club owes much to Rees and Reeder. These projects are just a few samples of activities in which they contributed countless hours.
We were about to set sail for one regatta, when a State Conservation Department officer arrived – saying we couldn’t race since we hadn’t first applied for their permission. Bill Paynter took over for the Club, and in strong words, faced down the man, saying that if he didn’t withdraw, he’d have Governor Bowen all over him on Monday (Dr. Bill then was Doc Bowen’s right hand man). This may well have been the last time the State undertook any action relative to the City’s reservoir water surface.
Much appreciation is owed to another Club member, architect Stan Dziackio, who first designed and made a miniature-modeled clubhouse for us. Then, followed with the design of our shelter house built in 1986. Stan also cleared the way through all the approvals and permits needed…then stayed the course until the building was complete to specs. We ended up with a stone-wood shelter house – complete with a small “kitchen,” showers, restrooms, and a fireplace…all on a hill overlooking the harbor and boat slips.
An early decision was whether to afford bringing in IPL lines, or to purchase our own generator. IPL, of course, won.
Our first map shows access via the old road to a small roughly triangular boat and trailer storage area…connected to a concrete ramp with no other amenities. The six race-course mark locations agree with today’s, but 4, 5, & 6 were numbered in reverse order.
Our first well was next to today’s pump house. We drilled deeper and deeper through glacial moraine, and then through limestone to reach water at 362 feet – yielding sulfur water! When the water never became palatable, we eventually, with an understanding with Parks that the public could share our water, drilled the present hilltop well. Then, the old well was capped.
In 1974, our Club listed 45 Hobie 14’s, 24 Hobie 16’s, 27 Butterfly’s, 13 Snipe’s, 10 Interlake’s, 6 Laser’s, 5 Thistle’s, 4 Flying Dutchman’s, 4 Flying Scott’s, 4 C-Lark’s, 3 or more Y-Flyer’s, and 40 other boat types including several cruisers. This is in marked contrast to today’s cruiser majority versus beach-boat ratio.
Our first cruiser docks were bought and installed in 1976 with Larry Johnson as Commodore and Bill Christy as Harbor Master. We had to insist on more room between fingers to get today’s apparently satisfactory spacing.
Storer says he’s particularly proud of the ECSC’s membership in the Inter-Lake Yachting Association and the United States Yacht Racing Union. Those memberships enable Club members to visit other yacht clubs across the nation (reciprocity).
A rash of theft and vandalism led to employing Bob Bodish as resident Property Manager. Bob’s mobile home was located where we have now have the current shelter house.
The place needed a septic system. So, under Commodore Dave Bikoff, Jim Reeder sought out and we then, in 1980, installed a sequence of septic tank, grinder pump, and a long delivery line to a septic field atop the hill near the property line (where excellent percolation was proven). Jim foresightedly sized the pump in anticipation of future Club usage. This system essentially needed only a larger field to serve our new shelter house, built under Commodore Mitch McKnight.
Bob Bodish’s tenure was jeopardized when his house burned. With members’ help, he bought a new larger “mobile” home. Its placement at its present location timed with the new shelter house project in 1986. Bob has been a Club fixture ever since.
The Club doesn’t operate on a Blackball basis. “We have no limitations on who can join. It’s definitely not a private club,” says Storer. Members need only to be able to pay the initiation fee and, one way or another, fulfill the annual membership dues requirements.
John Storer raced his 14-foot Hobie Cat into his mid-80s.!