At Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour's "Dream with Dan 2.0" online community forum held via Facebook Live Thursday, Carl Malone, superintendent for the parks department, talked about the status of the parks and provided updates on the opening dates for some of them.
Malone said due to the governor’s social distancing guidelines, the department had to rope off the parks throughout the city during the stay-at-home order.
“That was challenging because people continued to come out and tear caution tape away from our playground area,” Malone said. “Eventually the mayor and I had decided on taking down the basketball rims completely from our parks.”
He said the department’s workers were able to get all the piers added at the reservoir as soon as they could. He said the campsites and the beach area at the reservoir is open. However, it put them behind on the mowing work that needed to be done at all the city parks.
Malone said his department is trying to get mulch put in at all parks and update the playground equipment to get it up to standard in terms of the safety code.
“We are busy as a team trying to get as many parks up to par as we can,” Malone said. “We’re constantly working on that.”
Tuhey Park, which normally opens during the Memorial Day weekend, has its opening date pushed to June 15 in order to adhere to the state’s guidelines, Malone said.
“We’re hoping to be able to get it open maybe before. We don’t know yet,” he said. “We’re going to meet next week and we’re going to be doing some things there to get it open as soon as possible so we can have it open to the public.”
McCullough Park, he said is undergoing some minor construction work. The interior of Cabin 6 at the park is being renovated inside with some work being done on its floors along with some roof work.
The main basketball court will have a new backboard, new rims and a painted surface coming soon, Malone added. The baseball diamond at the park will have its baseball season start June 15 with the American Legion.
Malone said Cooley Park will have some construction work being started soon.
“We’re going to constantly continue work over there with mowing and edging and putting mulch in that area to get it going looking like it should, being it is a neighborhood park and a small corner park up in the south end of town,” he said.
Thomas Park will be having a baseball program for middle school-aged children starting June 15.
“We’re trying to get that league going and get some volunteers out,” he said. “That’s a work in progress.”
The parks department will be running a summer employment program for children between ages 12-16, Malone said. They will attend a mentoring session one day every week during the eight-week program and then work all day on Friday at the parks.
Children will be able to earn $50 every Friday. He said the parks department currently has 70 slots available. The program will start June 8 and last through the rest of June of July.
“We think this is an excellent opportunity to give our young kids the opportunity to earn some money over the summer,” Malone said.
The parks department will be having minor programs for K-6 school students. This program will include sports like kickball, baseball, basketball and track and field throughout the course of the summer.
“We’re just busy trying to put the program delivery piece together,” Malone said. “We’re busy trying to make the community aware there’s going to be some programming taking place in our city parks.”
Independence Day fireworks:
Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour said the city will have its July 4 fireworks celebration at downtown Muncie near Muncie Central High School and at the reservoir.
“We’re still working out how to help make sure people are safe. We’ll put out some guidelines here shortly that have some serious recommendations,” Ridenour said. “Most restrictions are lifted at that point, but we want to make sure that it’s still safe.”
Ridenour said the parks department, the streets department and the animal shelter have all had to try finding additional sources of funding due to budget constraints. He said the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped with that situation either.
“We have been looking for grant opportunities where we can find them,” he said.
For example, the Community Foundation of Muncie & Delaware County, Inc. provided a $25,516 grant for upgrades at Cooley Park, which will mainly be used for phase one improvement at Cooley Park which includes safety and ADA compliance renovations to the restroom facilities, according to the foundation’s website.
Ridenour said he has been working with Ralph Smith, the city councilperson from District 1 where the park is located, but would like to see more input from community members in the neighborhood before final plans for the park are put in place.
The mayor said while money is being put into that park, work on the park will happen next year and it’s unlikely it will happen this year. However, the money from the grant will be used toward improvements at the park for now.
“As soon as the neighborhood associations get back to meetings, we’re very interested in getting in there and finding out what the neighbors want,” he said.
One of the ideas Ridenour said he was considering for the park was a splash pad, given that it was a popular idea. He said his objective is to have four splash pads in time around the city if that’s what the neighborhoods want.
“It’s important for me that we make our parks more usable for the public and make sure the public has what they want,” he said.
Ethan Browning, director of the Muncie Animal Care and Services Department, said the animal shelter is now open again for serious adopters.
Browning said appointments are still encouraged, but they are allowing a limited number of serious adopters to walk in, provided guests wear masks and practice social distancing.
He said they are not yet allowing volunteers and recreational visitors until Indiana has completed all stages of the reopening process.
The city also applied for a $24 million grant from the Federal Department of Transportation that would go toward the infrastructure of the city. He said it would impact nine different neighborhoods in the city.
Ridenour said it is very competitive and there is no guarantee Muncie would get it, but he hoped fewer cities considered applying for it this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brian Stephens-Hotopp, city engineer, provided a brief update about plans to fix potholes and roads in the city, going forward.
Muncie's City Hall has been open to the public since Tuesday, but Ridenour recommended people handle their claims over the phone or online.
After a brief email question and answer period, Ridenour said he hopes to have the next “Dream with Dan 2.0” meeting in person. The venue for the meeting has not yet been decided.
Contact Jake Merkel with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jakemerkel4. Contact Rohith Rao with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @RaoReports.