MUNCIE — Hancock County and the City of Greenfield each scored a big win Friday at the American Planning Association’s spring conference in Muncie.

The Indiana Chapter of the APA hosted the event at the Ball State University Alumni Center, honoring professional planners and other city and county officials who have excelled in planning for success in communities throughout the state.

Hancock County’s planning director, Kayla Brooks, accepted the award for the county’s 2024 comprehensive plan, which was facilitated by Wisconsin-based Vandewalle & Associates.

The City of Greenfield won the award for Outstanding Urban Design for its development of Depot Street Park, which was facilitated by Context Design of Indianapolis.

The award was presented to Context Design, the City of Greenfield, and Greenfield Parks and Recreation. Brian McNerney, senior associate at Context Design, joined Greenfield’s planning director, parks director and parks maintenance operations manager in accepting the honor.

Friday’s award marked the fourth statewide honor for the downtown Greenfield park, which has brought in thousands of visitors since it first opened in June 2022.

The park has also won a Monumental Award from the Indy Chamber, a placemaking award from Accelerate Indiana Municipalities, and an Exceptional Facility Design Award from the Indiana Parks & Recreation Association.

Greenfield’s planning director, Joanie Fitzwater, said the two latest awards received last week are yet another feather in the cap for the local community.

“There are certainly a lot of amazing things happening here in Hancock County,” she said.

As for Depot Street Park, the planner said she never guessed the urban gathering space would garner so much attention and so many awards.

“We thought we would have a fun park, but it really has proven to be unique. Context Design did an excellent job of building it based on the infrastructure of the historic grain elevator (which was transformed into The Depot restaurant), and the site of the former train station,” she said.

Fitzwater said the planning award presented Friday recognized not only what the park has done for the city, but for exceptional design work done by Context Designs.

“That plays a huge part in what makes it so successful. People are drawn to it because it’s a beautiful place to be and a cool place to hang out,” she said.

Depot Street Park features an amphitheater, green space, limestone water features and art, as well as steel beam swings and picnic tables that roll on tracks in a tribute to its former days as a train depot.

The park is home to a Friday and Saturday night concert series each summer, as well as a number of other events throughout the year.

“The whole space plays to the grain elevator revitalization and the entire authentic approach to renewing the downtown that really speaks to people,” said Fitzwater.

She said the same was true of the county’s latest comprehensive plan, which sets out plans for how the county can continue to grow and thrive in the years to come.

She credits both Brooks and Hancock County’s previous planning director, Mike Dale, for creating such an award-worthy comprehensive plan. Dale served as the county’s planning director for 20 years before leaving to become Zionsville’s community and economic development director in 2022.

“It really is a fabulous comprehensive plan,” said Fitzwater.

“They did a really good job of addressing the needs of the county and establishing goals to help the county develop in an orderly manner, partnering with all of the communities in the county, and now and now they have taken that a step further and have retained Vandewalle Associates to help implement the plan and take the next step necessary to actually make that plan happen,” she said.

On its website, Vandewalle & Associates shared that the updated plan culminates a $250,000 effort over a year in the making guided by Vandewalle & Associates, a local steering committee and public feedback.

“At over 200 pages, officials will use the document to help guide development over the next 20 years,” it says. The revised plan replaces the county’s previous plan, which had been in place since 2005 and had an in-house update in 2012.

For more information on the county’s latest comprehensive plan, visit