City & Neighborhood Background

By Olivia Vincent

Photo by Reggie Mables

The City of Muncie and Heekin Park 

Muncie City Council meets on the first Monday of each month at 7:00 pm. The City Council room creates within itself its own culture. Distinct personalities and diverse members of the community come together to create a narrative each first Monday. The room lacks any significant charm with outdated curtains and furniture and scratches going across the council members’ platform. Although this may be an indication of significant financial problems and political inactivity, it is not the focus of these meetings. Despite the room, the people within it are what truly matters to the city of Muncie illustrated each week by citizen recognition. 

On September 13th councilwoman Davis awarded the Citizen of the Month award to Mr. Najee Montgomery and Mr. Brian Nash for their mentoring program that incorporates traveling sports, Phenom Nation. Both men took the podium and councilwoman Davis showered them with an appreciation for the incredible things they had done in their communities and continue to do. In the far corner of the room sat many children and parents who had come to see these two men awarded with this recognition. Brian Nash took a moment to state what a true blessing this was and began to cry while recounting that they are following a legacy left behind by their co-founder, Terrance “Pac Man” Sevion. After all words had been said many members of the audience shed tears as well and stood in a rousing ovation. 

This mentoring program is one of the many ways the community of Muncie is protecting their youth and creating a better life for them as best they can. The program titled Phenom Nation utilizes Heekin park and other community spaces to practice and raise money for their kids to be able to participate in travel sports. On days when they’re doing car wash fundraising, these kids can be seen walking along Madison street with buckets asking for donations to their program. Despite lacking a proper sports facility this program still does its absolute best to provide for Muncie youth. It showcases one of the many reasons why the community of Muncie should care about its parks and strive to improve them. Parks are a place where communities can come together and the potential these spaces have for providing for their communities remains untapped to its fullest potential.

Southside and Industry Neighborhoods 

The Southside and Industry Neighborhoods are a diverse network of dedicated Muncie residents. Both of these neighborhoods exist alongside Heekin Park and are some of the residents who most typically utilize the park. Many neighborhoods have their own Neighborhood Association that works to better the communities who live within them and the spaces and resources they share. It’s within these associations that we see some of the most dedicated and compassionate members of the City of Muncie. We believe that they could be a pinnacle part in implementing park improvements and changing the current narrative of Heekin Park. 

Courtney Marsh is the current president of the Southside Neighborhood Association. She spoke at the Indiana Parks and Recreation Association Conference on November 2nd, 2021, as a representative of the Southside Neighborhood. In the education session “Neighborhood Partnerships – The Benefits of Working with Residents to Plan and Implement Park Improvements” she discussed the ways in which her association dedicated itself to the maintenance and care of Cooley Park. Members of the association take time out of their weekends to clean playground equipment and paint over graffiti. This is volunteer work and they do it for the benefit of the residents who utilize the park and also to lighten the load of work for the Muncie Parks and Recreation board. We believe that this continued joining and collaboration between Neighborhood Associations and the Muncie Parks and Recreation board could be essential in better managing and caring for the parks in the Southside and Industry Neighborhoods. 

Muncie neighborhood associations are also helping bridge the gap between parks and the broader city. Often times we heard complaints about lack of communication and clarity about events or programs that were occurring within the parks. Neighborhood associations take special care in informing members and utilizing their social media to advertise events. On December 6th Courtney Marsh spoke at the City Council meeting and informed the public on Christmas in the Park which would be occurring in Heekin the following weekend. City Council members also donated candy canes to the event. It’s within these collaborations and communications that we observe some of the greatest strengths in better informing the public of events being held within public parks. In bridging that gap there can be more clarity and engagement from members of the community which could strike newfound passion for parks and their continued usage.