Participant Observation & Analysis

By: Olivia London

Our research was compiled by participant observations which were completed at Tuhey, and other meetings associated with the parks, along with conducting interviews and surveys from people who were in one way or the other associated with Muncie parks. Although ethnographies combined with observational materials can usually take up to a year, our semester long research soon began to unveil themes in front of our very own eyes (Low et al. 2005). Tuhey, just like every other park in Muncie, is underfunded and there is a lack of responsibility from those who are in charge; this can be seen through the board members involvement and within the park itself.  

Our observations at meetings gave us insight on how Parks, especially those in Muncie, operate. Many board meetings were cancelled, and when the board did hold some of their monthly meetings, not all members attended. During a Muncie Parks Board meeting Sydney attended only three out of the five board members were present. It was at this same meeting the board announced they are setting up both a private and public fund which will allow patrons of the parks to donate directly. This will allow parks to receive new equipment without having tax dollars pay for them. Other meetings gave insight into what Muncie could do to help their parks. Brooklyn attended an IPRA conference where she was educated on the “My South Bend Project.” This project promoted equity and relevance by completing 35 small improvements in their parks. Although this 62-million-dollar investment would not work in Muncie yet, the project planning used by South Bend to better their parks could aid in the Muncie Parks Plan.  

Observation of Tuhey displayed the types of events and activities that happen along with the kinds of community members who visit the park. Our surveys and informal interviews tell us that people who live close by walk on foot, yet it has been seen that various visitors come by car. Families, groups of people, and even singles have all been spotted in the park, each there for different activities. My group has seen children of all ages using playground equipment for both indented and unintended purposes, parents using folding chairs to watch their children, groups holding picnics under the gazebo, and many dog walkers using walking paths to walk their pups among other things. Some activities are unusual but still we have recorded instances of these happening inside of Tuhey, such as a group using remote-controlled cars or children playing with the infamous Payless Grocery Store shopping cart. Some activities and events were never seen by the group due to the season, or timing of day/week but these events are known because of prior knowledge or evidence left at the park. Examples of this would include people swimming in the pool during the summer, or a birthday party banner that was left behind. 

Informal conversations with parkgoers during participant observations and survey responses also revealed what members of the community thought about their parks. One thing I know for sure is Muncie people love their community; Save Tuhey, a campaign to save Tuhey Park from becoming a contested urban space, proved this (Nonini & Low 2014). Parks bring the community together. Whether someone has grown up going to Tuhey or they just moved here and needed a place to take their children, they know they are welcome. Crystal, a resident near the park, said she loves Tuhey because of its levels of enjoyment for all children. However, that does not mean that those same people do not have opinions on how they could better their park.  

Brooklyn, a group member for Tuhey park, spoke to an older gentleman who she assumed was in his upper 50s to 60s, he wished that more community events were held at Tuhey. The need for community events was mentioned by many people during both informal conversations and throughout survey responses. Not only did people believe there was a need for more community events, members of the community also told us how Tuhey needs a public restroom. Parents told us how they needed seating to watch their children on the playground. Many parkgoers wanted to see something done to the green. They even suggested that the space be used by children, or a new structure should be implemented by the park. When asked what kind of structures the park could provide some suggested: a greenhouse, a music amphitheater, an ice-skating rink, or even a skateboarding area.  

Muncie residents have a plethora of ideas for the Muncie Parks Department, and they are willing to help. Participant observation at Tuhey proves this. Multiple parkgoers have been observed either helping by cleaning up discarded items/trash or have been heard saying that they would help. One woman even offered up the idea of planting flowers with a couple of other ladies. Some people have suggested more signage at the parks to educate the community on the importance and history of Tuhey park. I personally believe there should be signage to commemorate the pool becoming desegrated. It is important for Tuhey to acknowledge its past because it is thought that if people are not represented historically, they will not use the park (Low et al. 2005). People are needed for Parks to function, without the community a park simply an unembodied space.  


Jacobs, J., & Epstein, J. (2011). The Uses of Neighborhood Parks. In The death and life of great American cities (pp. 89–111). essay, Modern Library. 

Low, S. M., Taplin, D., & Scheld, S. (2005). Rethinking urban parks: Public space & cultural diversity, The Cultural Life of Large Urban Spaces. University of Texas Press. 

Nonini, D. M., & Low, S. M. (2014). In A companion to urban anthropology: Spatialities: The Rebirth of Urban Anthropology through Studies of Urban Space (pp. 16–26). essay, Wiley-Blackwell. 

“Save Tuhey.” Save Tuhey. Accessed December 10, 2021,