New park under construction for Muncie's east side
A park that’s currently under construction will become Muncie’s eastern “gateway” into the city.
Gateway Park, which has been in the works since last winter, is part of Mayor Dennis Tyler’s plan to create entranceways for all four directions entering Muncie. Located at the north entrance are the Windsong Statue and the Fallen Heroes Memorial Bridge. The south side hosts the Chief Munsee statue and the Walnut/Madison roundabout.
The city of Muncie recently received a $63,000 grant from the Ball Brothers Foundation for landscaping. Muncie Project Manager and Consultant Brad Bookout said the Foundation, along with everyone else he has approached for funding, has been very receptive to the park.
“[We’ve been taking] the plan from place to place to place and explaining the need for the park, explaining the intentions of the park, explaining the Mayor’s vision,” Bookout said. “As that process went about, everybody got on board. We’ve had nobody say any negatives about it at all."
He said the city has $370,000 pledged to the project.
After the city acquired the park property, they worked with the US Environmental Protection Agency to decontaminate the ground. Because the property formerly housed a dry cleaners, it was considered a brownfield property. According to the US EPA’s website, a brownfield is a “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.”
Bookout said that now that the brownfield work has been completed, the city is ready to move forward to the next stages of completing the park. He said that the different foundations and partners have been so enthusiastic that more things have been added to the park.
“They all recognized that they’re so excited about the park they actually started adding things to the plan,” Bookout said. “Now there’s a performance stage, a new granite seating wall to encompass the park and then also a larger art sculpture at the corner.”
Mayor Tyler said that he is hoping to incorporate some of the city’s theaters and programs into the park, but that there are many different events that could take place there.
“The thought is that with a small performance stage there, that it could be a number of different things that [go on] in that little downtown area,” Tyler said. “Maybe musical performances during the first Thursdays, and the soup crawl and a lot of other things that are going on ... People may want to use it in conjunction with Cornerstone [Center for the Arts] for wedding celebrations and ceremonies.”
The Muncie Parks and Recreation department will ultimately manage the park, but the different contributors to the park, like Muncie Downtown Partnership, will also have a role in the events and upkeep.
The park is set to be completed during 2015, which is Muncie’s 150th anniversary year. Tyler said that the creation of grand opening plans is being delayed until a concrete construction schedule is established.
“All of that’s going to be determined on when we can get the ground moving and get the construction started and in place, [and] that will be based on the weather,” Tyler said. “Once we have a pretty good idea of what the completion date will be, we will sit down with everybody and put together a grand opening program presentation.”
Once the park is completed, the only side of Muncie left without a gateway will be the west side. Mayor Tyler said that he and Bookout have been negotiating for two years with Marathon Oil to acquire a lot there that’s been vacant for 17 years.
“We’d like to take a look at possibly, if we could capture that the right way, in an affordable way, do some partnerships with private owners and the foundations to have a west end gateway coming into the downtown,” Tyler said. “That’d end up being pretty cool; we’d have the entire downtown area really surrounded by some really nice little pocket parks.”
Mayor Tyler said that he hopes the Muncie community will enjoy and appreciate the new addition to their city.
“For a number of years, that was a very dilapidated corner; [it] wasn’t very pleasing at all coming in from the East side of Muncie,” Tyler said. “It certainly didn’t add anything to the décor of our entranceway into downtown, and that’s the reason that we moved forward on this.”