The YMCA takeover of Tuhey Park: a quick primer and opinions

A common staple of life in Muncie, Indiana, is having to occasionally field cartoonishly bad ideas from elected officials and private interests, and prevent them from actually materializing. Last year, it was the agreement between the City and Zinc Nacional to subsidize a large zinc-recycling facility upwind of town, which would have created significant zinc and lead pollution. Thankfully, the community was able to prevent this. We were not able to prevent a plan to turn the former Wilson Middle School into the new Delaware County jail, creating a symbolic nightmare embodying everything dystopian about life in the post-industrial Rust Belt.

Yet to be determined is the fate of Tuhey Park: a beloved green space with two playgrounds and a community pool. Tuhey is located between the Riverside-Normal City and Old West End neighborhoods, which are themselves two historic neighborhoods. Several months ago, evidently behind closed doors, the local YMCA began planning to acquire Tuhey Park from the City and turn much of its green space into a new facility and large parking lot. More on that here.

Last Tuesday, the Muncie Land & Traffic Committee held a meeting to hear from members of the community about the project. Here are some takeaways from tonight’s committee meeting, for those who couldn’t tune in and don’t feel like sitting through three hours of council meeting. Warning: as a resident of Muncie’s Old West End, I cannot write these takeaways without bias.

  • This project is pretty much universally opposed by residents of Riverside-Normal City and the Old West End. Terrific testimonies were given by residents and neighborhood association members.
  • Councilman Jeff Robinson of Muncie’s District 2 has received hundreds of emails on the subject, and estimates 98-99% of them are in opposition to the project.
  • Those who do support the project clearly do not have an understanding of how and why Tuhey Park is so important to residents of these neighborhoods, because they (for the most part) live elsewhere.
  • There was one R-NC resident who supports the project. She also works for the YMCA.
  • The YMCA kept insisting on their commitment to community and nonprofit status, while also insisting that Tuhey would give them the best ROI (return on investment).
  • None of us are really sure why the YMCA insists on Tuhey Park. The YMCA has refused to provide the data they claim to have about why Tuhey is the best location for this project.
  • Dr. Andy Shears of the Muncie Map Co., expert cartographer, has reached out to the YMCA to ask what their location requirements are, so that he could help them find a new one. They never responded. Going off of what they have publicly disclosed, Dr. Shears found several non-Tuhey locations meeting those guidelines.
  • Oh, and this project has been in discussion and planning since at least May. We around the OWE and R-NC have only been discussing it since November.

If an organization insists up and down that they are so charitable, yet also insists on pushing forth with a project that is both universally disliked by the population it claims to serve and also refuses to substantiate its position with data, that’s not charity. That’s oppression masquerading as charity.

Later, in an op-ed for the Star Press, Dr. Shears posed an excellent question asked by another member of the community: “What happens when people always fighting bad decisions exhaust themselves and give up?”

They move.

Their employers advise them behind closed doors to go live in Pendleton or Hamilton county because the hour commute is way less a damper on quality-of-life than having to live here and constantly field horrible decisions by city officials.

They siphon income out of the couple of good places to work here and take their property taxes back to communities that care about quality-of-place.

Their kids go to school in districts elsewhere, leaving ours to continue floundering at the bottom.

I have heard this sentiment expressed by multiple community leaders, largely non-elected: “Why doesn’t anyone want to live here? It’s like this everywhere.”

It’s really not. In my life, I have lived in ten cities, six states or provincial areas, and two countries. I have never lived anywhere quite like Muncie.

Living here is like being gaslit by a place. You’re told over and over again that it’s “like this everywhere” and that “everywhere has its issues” while the city makes it insanely hard to want to stay. It’s akin to being in a relationship with an irresponsible drunk, while everyone tells you that every relationship has problems. Of course, it’s not just that nowhere else has potholes, poverty, and a lack of hipster amenities for its up-and-coming Millennials. I mean, I have lived nowhere else where so much civic participation time is spent just dedicated to undoing horrible decisions, and the rest to maintaining morale.

I will say: about a decade ago, when I first got here, the “this is just what happens to me” progress-allergic mentality was way more prevalent. It seems like now people are much more willing and able to call out bad decisions for what they are, even if it means admitting that it’s hard to live here and things aren’t normal here.

Thank God.

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