To understand the importance of parks in a community, you must also understand the community. When it comes to McCulloch Park, the surrounding neighborhood, Whitely, plays a large role in the influence on park statistics and “life”, however, McCulloch Park can have just as strong as an influence on the community. In this section we will examine what makes Whitely neighborhood a unique pocket community inside Muncie and how that affects McCulloch, and what that can tell us about why parks are so important.
Whitely was originally founded as a city of its own in the late nineteenth century by William Needham, a wealthy man who believed the area had great potential to become a major industrial city, and was exploited for its natural gas fields (www.muncieneighborhoods.org). Interestingly enough, William eventually decided to have Whitley join Muncie because a man named George McCulloch convinced him to, and today Whitely surrounds McCulloch (whitelycc.org). Some of the first few pieces of infrastructure to come to Whitley included a machine company, a new railroad across the river, and eventually, a school, which is now Shaffer Chapel (whitelycc.org). Whitely is a historically African American neighborhood in Muncie, as well as having a lower average income than the rest of Muncie (https://whitelycc.org/frontpage/). McCulloch Park is located in the southwest corner of Whitely neighborhood, and in close proximity to Minnetrista (www.cityofmuncie.com).
One way that we are able to see how Whitely neighborhood values their park, McCulloch, is through a community event conducted this past June by the Whitely Community Council entitled “Paint the Park” (whitelycc.org). The Council held the day at McCulloch in which they, the Muncie Parks Department, community volunteers, and Muncie Delaware Clean and Beautiful, spent time painting and cleaning the park structures (whitely.org). Frank T. Scott, president of Whitely Community Council, told The Star Press that “The whole purpose is to build community and to come together for a common purpose,” (thestarpress.com). This helps to show how Whitley and McCulloch have a mutually beneficial relationship. In fact, another Community Council member, Rebecca Parker, told The Star Press that Whitely is a very community focused neighborhood and that she was not surprised that so many people came to help paint McCulloch (thestarpress.com). They discuss in that article how McCulloch used to be the place to go, and it had many amenities, but now it does not, and the whole community hopes to help it return it to its former glory days (thestarpress.com).
Here is one of the doors painted from the project
Why might any of this be relevant? It’s relevant because understanding the people who surround and live in McCulloch can help to get a sense of local culture, which can help make data more easily understandable. Both communities and parks are necessary for each other’s survival for a multitude of reasons, such as being a place for promoting and managing social and cultural diversity (Low, Taplin, Scheld, 4). This is visible in McCulloch during their Juneteenth event that was held in the park. The Juneteenth event was held in the park on July 17, and consisted of speeches, music, food and games (ballstatedailynews.com). Many committee members spent their own money on the event, but the members of the community made it worth while, and brought life to the event (ballstatedailynews.com). Since Whitely is a historically African American community, it is important to understand all of the different histories, not just the dominant white history of the town. This allows for the promotion and acceptance of diversity and other cultures, as Low, Taplin, and Scheld discuss.
In McCulloch, when doing participant observations, many times there were children playing on the equipment or at the basketball hoops. Having this space for the youth of Whitely to be able to go and play, hangout, do homework or see friends is an essential part of growing up and learning to be a functioning member of society. It also gives adults a place to relax and get some nature time or cardio in, as was clearly observed in participant observations as well. Several times there would be adults reading or riding bikes around the park, and, especially at McCulloch, people play Frisbee golf. Parks are places for life, as well as appreciation, can be cultivated by the cities people (Jacobs, 81). This can be seen throughout all the examples previously listed. Once while at McCulloch, there was a family with a little girl, probably four or five, and another family who had a little boy around the same age. The families did not seem to know each other, but the children, once noticing each other, began to talk and play, encouraging the parents to say hi to each other as well. Setha Low relates public space and language to each other, because participants will gather information about each other and about the setting they are in, which can allow public space like this to be a conduit for connecting different sides of the community and bringing them together, when they originally may have never crossed paths (Low, 31) Yet another reason parks like McCulloch can be so important to Whitley and Muncie. McCulloch is also able to be accessed by all types of residence of Muncie, not just limiting it to able bodied member of the community, and not giving it a closing hour so anyone at any time is able to go. In Rethinking Urban Parks, the accessibility of parks is discussing and it is made clear that accessibility is not just about physical access, but mental, economic, and cultural access all play into this as well (Low, Taplin, Scheld, 4). McCulloch is free to go to, open at any time, and has equipment that disabled members of the community can enjoy, giving it easy access for most everyone in the community.
Parks in communities play very important roles for that community. Whitely neighborhood is the neighborhood directly surrounding McCulloch Park, and is a key factor in the face of McCulloch. Whitely community council has done many projects to help keep McCulloch an essential part of Whitely community, and through them they see a sense of community arise, showing us just why a park like McCulloch can be so important for communities.