In the sweltering summer heat of 2013, a class of Ball State University students gathered at a former junkyard on Muncie’s Burlington Drive. There, cased in their Hazmat battle armor, they plotted out which area of land to attack first. Armed with their weapons—a collection of contaminant-fighting plants—the students set to work hauling off scraps and siphoning out metals that were threatening the fragile ecosystem lying just below the surface.

With each passing semester over the span of two and a half years, more students joined the cause, bringing butterfly boxes and birdhouses to replace the rusted metal waste.

In early 2016, the final group planned a hiking trail to guide Muncie residents through the newly renovated field. The project manager, student Faye Lichtsinn, planned the trail to cross over a hill she thought would add natural beauty to the labored-over land. But the hill wasn’t natural at all.

It was a mound of tires.

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