Landscape Architecture students bring their skills to Muncie neighborhood

Timeline of Halteman Park Playground project

May 2017: Halteman Pool closes permanently.

September 2018: City of Muncie agrees to pay back taxes on Halteman Pool to raise money for a new park.

Spring 2019: Landscape architecture studio students in “Park and Open Space Design” class draw ideas for a new park.

Spring 2020: University receives immersive learning grant and J.P. Hall starts working with students again.

February 2020: Landscape architecture students visit Halteman Pool property to take measurements and formulate ideas.

March 2020: Students and Hall meet with Halteman Village residents to discuss ideas for a new park.

Summer 2020: Landscape architecture students Krista Walterbush and Emma Hawkins develop a 3D rendering of park renovation and finalize plans with Halteman Village residents.

February 2021: Halteman Village Neighborhood Association partners with Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority to fundraise for a new park.

Sources: J.P. Hall, Krista Walterbusch and Halteman Swim Club Facebook page

Since its closure in 2017, Halteman Pool has sat empty through seasons of harsh Indiana weather. No more is the neighborhood filled with the sounds of water splashing, lifeguard whistling and kids yelling. Time and weather may have affected the appearances of the pool deck, concession stand and locker rooms, but it has not eroded the neighborhood's memory of the location. 

Peter Gitman, Halteman Village resident, said his family moved into the neighborhood almost 12 years ago.

“At that time, there were still enough young kids in the neighborhood that you couldn't open a window because the pool activities were so loud,” he said. “And that's not a negative thing — that was a great thing. Over time, of course, kids grow up, and they go off to college and leave.”

As years passed following the pool’s closure, it became clear to neighborhood residents it would not reopen. The pool had served the Halteman Village neighborhood since the late 1950s before rising costs and low membership numbers forced it to close its gates indefinitely.

“It was a good feeling to hear young people laughing and having fun,” Gitman said. “Since the pool closed, that sound is gone.”

In September 2017, the property was sold in a tax sale, leaving the City of Muncie one year to decide the fate of the neighborhood pool.

Starting discussions

Hope for the neighborhood came in September 2018 after the city agreed to pay back taxes on the property to achieve the community's goal of a new park, said J.P. Hall, Halteman Village Neighborhood Association (HVNA) president and Ball State assistant professor of historic preservation.

“[The] HVNA did not want a private individual to gain control of that property,” Hall said. “For a year, we worked with the city, went to city council meetings and, finally, convinced them to retain control. During that year, we discussed options for the site and kept coming back to a park being a viable asset to the neighborhood.”

Hall said one of his colleagues, Christopher Baas, Ball State associate professor of landscape architecture, happened to be teaching a landscape architecture studio, “Park and Open Space Design,” during the spring 2019 semester. Hall thought Baas’ students might be able to help the neighborhood. He said their first attempt at involving students went well but amounted to little momentum for the project at the time.  

“That first spring, we had [Baas’] students come up with some ideas, and they did some great drawings,” Hall said. “I remember I took them to the neighborhood association — there were dozens of concepts and ideas, and it was great. I think it was a good starting point.”

The next year, Hall attempted to get help from the students again but with a more vigorous approach. Hall said the university applied for and received the Building Better Neighborhoods Grant for the project, which would allow the landscape architecture department some options for approaching the design.

Ball State students went to the site of the future park in February 2020 with Hall to take measurements and formulate some preliminary ideas. 

Ciera Silva, junior landscape architecture major, said Hall emphasized the importance of the space to the students while at the site. 

“He showed that [the pool] was a really big part [of the community] and that the people in the community cared what was going on,” Silva said.

Junior landscape architecture major Krista Walterbusch poses for a photo April 12, 2021, outside the College of Architecture and Planning. Walterbusch was hired by Ball State University during the summer 2020 semester to assist in finalizing the Halteman Park Playground project. Jaden Whiteman, DN

Generating ideas

Soon after the students took measurements, they met with Hall at Mitchell Early Childhood and Family Center in Halteman Village to discuss ideas with the public. During the meeting — which took place in Mitchell’s gym — parents and their children were divided into groups to discuss their wishes for the new park with Ball State students.

“[The kids were] giving us stuff like ninja courses [and] waterslides — just these crazy climbing apparatuses,” Silva said. “It's just a lot of stuff that you [had] to write down what it was — otherwise, you didn't know … but their imaginations just ran with it.”

Jeremy Merrill, Ball State associate professor of landscape architecture and one of the instructors for the class involved in the design, commended his students for their behavior during the project. 

“I cannot stress enough how professional, courteous and sociable they were when working with the public,” Merrill said. “Their designs were fantastic, they were doing everything that we wanted to see done in the studio [and] they were imaginative.” 

Merrill said another meeting was planned for the students to reconvene with the public to get feedback about the plans they had developed, but due to COVID-19, adjustments had to be made. 

He said all of the plans were on Facebook through a Qualtrics link, and people in the neighborhood and city could get the link and select the areas they liked in the students’ designs.

During summer 2020, two students were hired by the university using money left over from the immersive learning grant to finalize the project. One of these students was Krista Walterbusch, junior landscape architecture major, who described her experience as a “stepping stone” into other jobs she held that summer.

“Our job was to see what [the community members] liked — what they wanted differently — and create a new design with the feedback that we got from them,” Walterbusch said. 

Walterbusch said her role in the project was to render the design in Lumion, a 3D rendering software, while the other student, junior landscape architecture major Emma Hawkins, prepared a document that showcased the design and student involvement for presentation to the neighborhood. 

“Having a park where people can play, socialize and have gatherings, it really improves a place,” Walterbusch said. “Relationships are important and green space provides [those] relationships.”

Creating partnerships

Merrill said students involved showed “grand” talent.

“These are some of the second-year students, and they were operating at a professional level, and that's always good to see,” Merrill said. 

In February 2021, the HVNA, in partnership with the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, launched a fundraising campaign using a CreatINg Places grant, which will match funds raised for a project if the set donation goal is reached.

On Feb. 26, 2021, less than a month after it began fundraising, the HVNA reached its $30,000 goal, which will be doubled by the CreatINg Places grant. Hall said the success of the fundraising is, in part, due to the students involved in the project. 

“I actually set our goal lower than I should have because I didn’t know what the response was going to be,” he said. “[It] far outpaced my expectations.” 

Due to the overwhelming amount of support from the community, the HVNA set a new goal of $45,000, which, according to its website, will allow it to add a pavilion to the project. This new fundraising goal was also reached in late March. Hall said the project raised around $55,000 locally, and another $30,000 will come from the state of Indiana through the CreatINg Places grant. 

Demolition of the aging pool, which is scheduled for this spring, will be handled by the City of Muncie. Additionally, the city will provide some other site improvements, including a pedestrian path along the periphery of the property, Hall said.

Though the success of Halteman Park is clear to see now, Hall said, it wasn’t always easy. 

“It's not easy — it takes effort month after month [with] constant engagement, and organizing meetings and everything else,” Hall said. “So, it takes real work.” 

Hall said the success of the project is due to the students’ involvement. He believes “their presence, ideas, enthusiasm and graphic skills” is what made the community’s response to the project so positive.

Silva said working on the Halteman Park Playground project has been one of her favorite experiences as a student.

 “I really enjoyed being able to engage with the public,” she said, “[and] being able to be involved in the community and give them a sense of [a] helping hand.”

Contact Eli Houser with comments at ejhouser@bsu.edu.


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