By Eliza Guion—
MUNCIE, IN — Over the next several years, five new launches are scheduled to be constructed along the White River in Muncie, allowing for canoeing, kayaking, and tubing from the city’s east to west gateways.
The addition of these launches comes on the heels of five decades of work by individuals and organizations to improve the water quality in the White River, one of East Central Indiana’s most important natural assets. As the health of the river has improved, so too has interest in related outdoor recreation.
“In increasing numbers, canoeing and kayaking are thriving as outdoor activities for the residents of Muncie and surrounding communities,” commented John Barlow of Muncie Sanitary District. “The White River is Muncie’s greatest natural resource, and as an entity that focuses on protecting this resource every day, MSD is happy to do its part to enhance this waterway for the continued enjoyment of our citizens.”
Over the next several years, FlatLand Resources, a landscape architecture and design-build firm focused on community development and ecological restoration work, will partner with multiple Muncie agencies to construct five new entry points along the White River. Located at Memorial Drive, Luick Avenue, McCulloch Park, High Street, and West Side Park, the work will improve access to the river.
Though there have been some delays, work is slated to begin later this year at the McCullouch Park location. Once permits from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources are approved, work will also begin at the Memorial Drive and Luick Avenue access points with a projected finish date in Summer 2024. Extensive design is still needed for the West Side Park and High Street locations.
“This project is just one more step in our city’s decades-long journey of reinventing ourselves,” said David Heilman, a Landscape Architect at FlatLand Resources. “By building on countless efforts of others over the past 50 years to turn the White River into a gathering space and community destination, we are slowly creating an identity around a clean, ecologically diverse river that draws a vast array of recreationalists—something other cities can only yearn for.”
Efforts to improve the river have also recently culminated in the removal of dams to increase safety for recreational use and to improve the quality of life for aquatic species. A feasibility study is currently underway to assess options to improve safety and improve passage for fish and watercraft at the High Street dam.
Currently, McCulloch Park and Westside Park both have natural access points, and outdoor enthusiasts already use areas just south of the Kitselman Trailhead at the John Craddock Wetlands to enter the river. Those looking to spend a day on the river in the heart of Muncie can rent a variety of outdoor equipment including kayaks and canoes from Outdoor Pursuits at Ball State University which offers daily, weekend, and weekly rentals.
“Inspired by the Ball family’s long-standing history of conservation and belief that the White River was a key centerpiece of Muncie, Ball Brothers Foundation is proud to support initiatives that reclaim and restore our region’s rivers after decades of pollution and degradation,” said Ball Brothers foundation president and CEO, Jud Fisher. Ball Brothers Foundation awarded $90,000 in 2022 to support the design and construction of the new launches.
Now more than ever, waterways and natural resources in Indiana are being recognized as key tourism, economic development, wellness, and talent attraction tools. In fact, the outdoor recreation industry generates nearly $16 billion in consumer spending annually in Indiana with 59% of Indiana residents participating in outdoor recreation activities such as camping, wildlife viewing, fishing, hiking, canoeing, and more. This region already has outstanding amenities—the 62-mile paved Cardinal Greenway trail, exceptional fly fishing, mountain biking and horseback riding trails that are among the best in the state, and two square miles of superior water for sailing and swimming at Prairie Creek with 15 miles of natural shoreline. More canoe and kayak access sites along the White River have unlimited potential to further benefit our region.”“With these five new canoe and kayak launches in the heart of Muncie, East Central Indiana will continue to build its reputation as a destination for outdoor recreation,” commented Fisher. “
About Ball Brothers Foundation
Ball Brothers Foundation is one of the state’s oldest and largest family foundations. In 2022, the foundation paid out $10 million in grants to support arts and culture, education, the environment, health, human services, and public affairs. The Muncie-based private foundation gives priority to projects and programs that improve the quality of life in the foundation’s home city, county, and state.