Heekin Park Welcomes New ‘Muncie Memory Spiral’

Photo by Jenny Smith

By Rick Zeigler on behalf of Community Enhancement Projects—

MUNCIE, IN—If you have recently driven by Heekin Park along Memorial Drive, you may have noticed construction at the corner of Memorial and Hackley, as well as a new sign saying “Heekin Park – Muncie Memory Spiral.”  This is the latest project of Community Enhancement Projects, also known as CEP.

The Muncie Memory Spiral is an 800’ spiral pathway and garden that will be a beautiful new feature in Heekin Park that focuses on Muncie’s history.  Along the landscaped spiral are 23 signs containing images and text about events and themes significantly related to the history of Muncie, Indiana and the surrounding area.  The entrance to the pathway begins with signage about Muncie’s most recent history. As one travels along the spiral, visitors and signage will “spiral back in time” until one reaches the center of the spiral, where there is a gathering space with seating and a shade structure, as well as signage relating to the history of Heekin Park and the importance of the spiral design. In addition, the landscaping also ties into the history theme, as visitors will first encounter shrubs, flowers, and plantings common in contemporary landscapes in our area. Then, as walkers approach the center of the spiral, the plantings change to reflect those indigenous to our area at the time when Native Americans were our primary residents.

Photo by Mike Rhodes

The Muncie Memory Spiral is the brainchild of Rick Zeigler, past-President of CEP, and his wife, Jeanne Zeigler. When Rick first conceived the idea for an installation focused on beautification as well as history, his initial thought was to have a big circle around which signs would be placed detailing various aspects of our area’s history. When he shared this idea with his wife, Jeanne, an artist, she immediately said that it should be a spiral garden and path rather than a circle. A spiral would be unique, attractive, and would allow for interesting landscaping possibilities within its curves. Too, she noted that spirals are very significant in the history of our planet and species. Spirals are found throughout nature, in things as varied as seashells and hurricanes. The spiral is also a symbol found across all cultures and time periods, dating back to cave paintings and our earliest civilizations, continuing right up through the present in art and literature. Basically, our connection to spirals is figuratively and literally in our DNA, as our DNA is also spiral-shaped.

When the idea for the Muncie Memory Spiral was presented to the board of Community Enhancement Projects (CEP), they readily agreed to form a special committee and to oversee construction of the project. The CEP board felt that the Muncie Memory Spiral aligned well with its mission and project history, as it would be a beautiful, unique, and significant addition to Muncie’s park system that would enhance the quality of life for all residents of our area as well as foster community pride. Since its founding in 1990, CEP’s mission has been to foster through its beautification efforts an environment wherein area citizens, government, industry, and organizations continue to enhance and improve our quality of life for today’s community and future generations.

Photo by Mike Rhodes

CEP has undertaken many projects, with the help of many community partners, throughout the Muncie and Delaware County area. These include beautifying the traffic medians and triangles downtown near City Hall, the roundabouts at Morrison Road and near the airport on Walnut Street, designing and maintaining Riverbend Park near City Hall and Cornerstone and Fireman’s Parks downtown along Madison Street, and installing hanging flower baskets on the Washington Street Bridge and flower containers in front of a number of businesses downtown. The CEP project which has arguably had the greatest impact in our area is the White River Greenway with its five overlooks. While Cardinal Greenways has been in charge of the White River Greenway since 2004, it was CEP, with the help of John Craddock, that helped to initiate its design and construction back in 1995, including overseeing the building of the five overlooks along the river, four of which CEP continues to maintain to this day (Oakhurst Overlook is maintained by Minnetrista).

Rick and the CEP board also thought it important to locate the Muncie Memory Spiral on the Southside of Muncie. Muncie’s Southside and its residents were integral to the development of the city, as the Southside was the location for so many of the major factories that powered Muncie forward during the late 19th and early and mid-20th centuries. Given the focus on both beautifying the area and providing a unique outdoor forum that would have educational benefits exploring the history of Muncie, Heekin Park clearly stood out as the perfect Southside location.

The park already contains many significant historical attractions located within its boundaries, including the replicas of pioneer cabins, commemorations for those Muncie and Delaware County residents who fought in the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World Wars I and II, and the Vietnam War, as well as the historic Grace Keiser Maring Library building, the Five Points Fountain, and, very importantly, the Walk of Fame honoring the many Black leaders and area residents who have made a difference in our community by helping to break down racial barriers throughout our City’s history. By placing the Muncie Memory Spiral in Heekin Park, CEP’s hope is that Heekin will become known throughout our community as “Muncie’s History Park” and will encourage visitors from all of Muncie, Delaware County, and beyond.

While CEP’s focus is beautification, Rick turned to Chris Flook, a longtime leader of the Delaware County Historical Society, a writer for the Star Press, and one of our area’s pre-eminent historians, for help with the historical signage. Chris agreed to convene his own committee and head up the effort to select the themes, topics, and images for the signs, as well as create a website for the Muncie Memory Spiral that can be accessed by scanning any of the QR codes that are located on each of the signs. Among the subjects eventually selected for the 23 signs are “Muncie’s Automotive History,” “The Other Side of Middletown: Black Resistance and Persistence in Muncie,” “Muncie and the Arts,” “the Gas and Oil Boom,” “Spiritual Life,” “the American Civil War,” and our area’s “Original Indigenous Peoples.”

Photo by Mike Rhodes
Photo by Mike Rhodes

Mayor Dan Ridenour gave his blessing to the project and its location in Heekin Park. He also provided a financial commitment to the project which Rick and CEP felt would be necessary if they were to successfully raise the necessary funds from private foundations and businesses. The City’s financial help, however, was very limited in scope, being less than 8% of the total cost of the project. The other 92% came from a wide array of generous organizations, including the Sherman and Marjorie Zeigler Foundation, Ball Brothers Foundation, the George and Frances Ball Foundation, the Community Foundation of Muncie and Delaware County, the Land Conservation Trust at the Community Foundation, the Hamer D. & Phyllis C. Shafer Foundation, the  MutualBank Foundation, Old National Bank Foundation, American Lawnmower and Robert Kersey, Boyce Systems, Meeks Mortuary, First Merchants Corporation Charitable Fund, Magna Powertrain, the IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital Foundation, Versatile Metal Works (in-kind), Jay Crew Landscaping (in-kind), and the Delaware County Historical Society (in-kind).

CEP also focused on using local firms for the construction of the many elements of the Muncie Memory Spiral. Rundell Ernstberger Associates, who for many years had an office in Muncie, helped Rick, Jeanne, and CEP flesh out their ideas for the project in a way that made them achievable and aesthetically pleasing. Southside native Kyle Koger, along with the recently retired Eric Ernstberger, helped lead this effort. Local firm Pridemark Construction was selected to take charge of the project’s construction. Rick also approached Jeremi Dobbs at Versatile Metalworks to see if his firm would build the shade structure and sign pedestals. Jeremi, a Southside native whose firm is in the South Central neighborhood, was excited about participating in the project.  In addition, students from the Department of Landscape Architecture at Ball State helped design the shade structure. This being a CEP project, beautiful plantings were absolutely essential for the desired visual impact of the installation, so CEP engaged Southside business Jay Crew Landscaping, a long-time partner, to help design, install, and maintain the plantings within the curves of the Muncie Memory Spiral. Finally, local printing and graphics firms Farmhouse Creative and Ace Signs worked together to make the sign ideas from Chris Flook’s committee a reality.

With the Muncie Memory Spiral days away from completion, please plan to make a visit to this completely unique installation in Heekin Park. To help celebrate, CEP is also planning to hold a large community gathering and party at the site on Saturday, August 26th, when the weather will be warm and many of the plantings will be in bloom. All Muncie area residents and visitors are invited.