By Olivia Vincent and Zoe Lawton
Analysis – Why Heekin Park?
Throughout our research, we’ve found that many people love and appreciate Heekin Park as valuable public space. We’ve also found that many of the communities and individuals who use the park would love to see it improved and treated with the respect it deserves. It is a large green space with a number of potential ways to improve it. It already serves multiple communities, organizations, and sports groups. Below is a compilation of some of the requests made by community members that could develop Heekin park into a more inviting, practical, and accessible space.
Jane Jacobs, who influenced urban studies and economics, states that parks are volatile—meaning parks are viable to quick changes (Jacobs 1961). We can see this on the Facebook page, “Lost Muncie,” where there is often reminiscing, especially back to the 1960s. From various posts we learn that, in Heekin Park, there used to be live music in the evenings, and a movie every Thursday night in the summer. Parks are volatile they change quickly often because of the homes and buildings near the parks. Currently Heekin is popular primarily due to the cabin facilities and the large area of open space the park encounters.
In the book– Rethinking Urban Parks by Setha Low, Dana Taplin, and Suzanne Scheld, the authors discusses the cultural life of large urban spaces. They argue that there are patterns of park design that exclude people, like how currently Heekin park is not ADA compliant. This will drive away people who need accommodations to be social within the parks, like wheelchair accessibility. This reduces the social culture aspect of Heekin, making the park seem more exclusive than it should be. Muncie City Parks are public places, which means no one has direct ownership of the parks. This also means everyone should have freedom within the parks to be represented, regardless of ability, religion, race, gender, class, sexuality, or nationality. We need to emphasize the importance of creating a welcome space to every person. Some forms of representation in Heekin Park include memorials to soldiers and the Walk of Fame. There is room for more diverse representation. More diversity of public space can make more people feel welcome. Through this we get more community involvement. Muncie has vibrant neighborhoods and neighborhood associations, and the parks are affected by these communities. By having history, cultural, and people represented in parks that will show an increase in participation.
Ball State and Heekin Park
One of the major narratives that have been explored during this project is the disconnect between the broader Muncie community and Ball State students. Although the park is a public space for any resident of Muncie, often Ball State students choose to stay on campus or utilize parks closer to campus. Individuals have expressed wanting to see more of a connection between Ball State and Heekin Park. One idea is that Ball State students could organize “Music in the Park” events which would be public performances of music for community members in Heekin. Additionally, Heekin would be a great park to hold youth activity events and sports which could be aided by education and/or athletic students on campus. There are extensive ways that Ball State students could utilize Heekin Park and the community wants them to utilize the space and would welcome them to it. It’s simply a matter of finding passionate people on campus who would be willing to organize and work with the Muncie Parks and Recreation board to bring some of these highly desired events to Heekin.
Public Events and Activities
Over the course of our research, many individuals and community groups have expressed a desire for more events and community activities within the park. The above passage discusses music events but another highly desired theme is sports and tournaments. The horseshoe pits have been underutilized for quite some time but residents see it as a possible space to have horseshoe tournaments within the park. Individuals would also like to see access to youth sports activities through the usage of the baseball diamond, basketball courts, and general green space. The tennis courts could also be used if some improvements were made to fix the courts. One significant desire related to sports as well as a park run rental service for sports materials. It can at times be difficult for members of the community to allocate money to purchase sports materials and they’d like to see the city or the Muncie Parks and Recreation board run a rental service.
In an interview with Park Superintendent Carl Malone and Program Director George Foley, we learned that the Parks program is planning on making a pickle ball court in Heekin. They also shared similar sentiments expressed above. When asked what things that would like to be doing in the parks right now, Mr. George Foley stated that he had high hopes of opening a Sports Complex on the Southside of Muncie. He notes that not only would this bring opportunity for youth sports but it could bring much-needed economic development to the Southside if the complex attracted traveling teams and events.
We feel like if we open this Sports Complex on the Southside of Muncie, that will bring other businesses like restaurants and everything because you’ll have teams travel from different cities to come in and play at Muncie so not only do we want to add programming in there. But that’ll change the economical value for the Southside of Muncie too.George Foley, Muncie Parks Program Director
Interview (Nov 22nd, 2021) “Park Superintendent Carl Malone & Program Director George Foley” By Sam Turner and Kiera McWhinney
Seating – Heekin Park is known for its large green space but within this space, there is not adequate seating available for people who want to spend time in the park. Individuals have referenced wanting more picnic benches specifically.
Safety – Although there is the presence of a fire station in Heekin Park there are general concerns about safety due to possible drug and gang-related activity that occurs in the park. At this time we don’t have a specific method by which more safety may be achieved.
General Maintenance – Many individuals have expressed wanting more general maintenance and cleaning in the park. Often there is litter and other miscellaneous items left in the playground, picnic areas, and cabins. Individuals would also like to see maintenance or improvement of the restrooms in Heekin that are often unclean and not always open.
Accessibility – In the Muncie 5 Year plans for parks and also an interview with Shannon Powers it’s been noted that one of the most significant desires for Heekin Park is ensuring it adheres to Americans Disability Act guidelines.
Grace Library – The Grace Library is a significant piece of Muncie history but it currently sits dormant in Heekin Park. The Grace Library may be an opportunity to design a meeting space or event hall for the communities of Muncie. Although this would be a significant project it may be something beneficial to assess and seek out private funding to renovate.
Walk of Fame – Community members would like to be able to submit and discuss revisions and additions to the Walk of Fame. It’s an important historical representation of Muncie and people respect its place in Heekin Park.
Parking – Community members would like to see more accessible parking in Heekin Park. At the current moment, many individuals park on the streets or in the small gravel lots. Residents note the expanse of space within Heekin and how more parking could offer better access to the park.