History of Heekin Park

By Koby Johnson

Early Years of Heekin

In 1890, a part of Muncie known as Galliher Grove, was opened as the recreational park, Heekin Park. Then, in 1914, the park was bought by the city of Muncie, and turned Heekin into a public city park. The early years of Heekin weren’t well recorded by journalists and archivists of the early 20th century, as very little documentation exists of the changes made to Heekin before the 1930’s. The Park goes through multiple proposed blueprints but is eventually situated with small play areas for children, an area for adults to socialize, and walking trails, as well as cabins that can be rented, all built between 1915 and 1929. 

At one point, the local women’s club installed a boulder with a plaque commemorating soldiers that hailed from Delaware County who fought in wars that took place by that point, such as the Civil War, Spanish-American War, and others. Also of note is a comment made in 1966 in a newspaper column that calls the purchase of Heekin’s land as the “best bargain Muncie ever got.” (The Star Press) Some of the original plans for the park shows that the city had wanted to be more ambitious, as plans were made for a pool, a large amphitheater, and a small area called monkey island, but many of these ideas never came to fruition. 

  • 1930- Muncie’s Park Board is established and during this period the Heekin Park Zoo is built

    Grace Keiser Maring Library was dedicated and began serving the south side of Muncie

  • `1953- There is a new peacock, 11 pheasants, new peahens, and three bears named Puggins, General and Susie.

    A memorial dedicated to the soldiers of World War II was installed with a time capsule.

  • May 1955- A new tennis court was dedicated

  • 1958- The bear family was expecting a new cub

  • 1962- Puggins the bear was relocated to the bear pit in McCulloch park and died

  • 1965- A free formed turtle was added to the sand pit for kids to play on

    Fire station was built, even though the land was owned since 1914

  • 1969 and 1970- a post from Lost Muncie Facebook Page, “My dad and his brother ran the National Horseshoe Pitching Association World Tournament in Heekin in 1969 and 1970. Dad (Harold) was president and his brother (Marvin) was vice president. Men and women from all over the world came to Muncie to compete and pitch horseshoes. I remember being a 4 and 5 year old spending the day wandering around the park with mom or staying nearby as she kept score for so many matches. Dad organized the round robin tournament and promoted the final matches. He also raised the money throughout the city by going to businesses, stores, factories, etc. to raise the $50,000, a HUGE amount back then, to bring the tournament to Muncie. He authored the world tournament programs and books, collecting photos and stories from all the pitchers and publishing them for all to read. He distributed a few to each business that supported the tournament but most went to the participants and the Munsonians who came to watch. There were bleachers around the pits and whole families came to see the various age groups.”

  • 1975- Vietnam War memorial installed

  • February 1978- Cabins are closed due to energy crisis

  • 1980- Denied a pool

  • September 1982- Heekin slated to get a new playground and picnic area near the fire station

  • 1994- New playground installed and over 300 trees planted

  • 2011- Walk of Fame is installed

  • 2014- Dog Park is installed

  • 2015- Basketball courts redone

  • February 2017- Cut down 34 ash trees due to the emerald ash borer killing them

    New Heekin park sign placed

    New playground equipment

    Horseshoe pits renovated

Sources: A Twentieth Century History of Delaware County, Indiana, Heekin Park – Muncie Visitors Bureau | Visit Muncie, Timeline: Muncie parks through the years (thestarpress.com)