An acre that once had dilapidated houses and overgrown weeds will soon become a relaxing, inviting green space in Fort Wayne’s Nebraska Neighborhood. This Fall 2017 Semester, three teams of Ball State University students each crafted recommendations on what to do with the triangular Wayne Knitting Mills Park.

Improvements to the pocket park are part of a larger vision for the Main Street corridor, said Matt Momper, ’83, a Ball State trustee and president of Momper Insulation, which is about a half-mile from the site.

“We want the community to be a nicer place to live,” Trustee Momper said. “This project is a great example of how Ball State is about more than educating students. It’s about serving its neighbors, near and far.”

The students, who are majoring in natural resources and environmental management, suggested a walking path for the park. Other ideas included benches, lights, dog-friendly areas, signage, a rain garden, a gazebo, game tables with chessboards, a living fence of dogwood, and air pumps and other tools for bicycles. The students also had to consider how much their suggestions cost.

“The most enjoyable part has been learning more about the neighborhood because, honestly, it’s a really beautiful neighborhood. The acre is really beautiful,” said Ball State junior Macy Rohr.

Trustee Momper said the designs were elegantly simple and reflect the needs of a neighborhood that does not have many small children. “This is more of an adult park, maybe a hipster park,” he said.

Ball state students visit Fort Wayne park

Ball State students’ visit to the Fort Wayne pocket park sparked ideas for how it could be improved, from a walking path to a living fence of dogwood.

The Nebraska Neighborhood Association has owned the property for several years. Chris Shatto, ’94, the association’s president, said he would like to use elements from all three designs and expects improvements to be made in phases, perhaps starting in the spring.

“I’m very, very excited,” he said. “These things are a catalyst. It solidifies things in my mind.”

The immersive learning project’s faculty mentor was Amy Gregg, chair of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management. She said students were empowered to make their designs on a blank slate and was surprised with what they came up with.

“This project will give the neighborhood a sense of pride,” she said.

Nebraska Pocket Park is the second immersive learning project Ball State students have done for the Nebraska Neighborhood Association. In Spring 2017, a team mentored by marketing chair Russell Wahlers did a brand positioning assessment for the neighborhood, including its key attributes.