Big Picture

parks make great cities. An exceptional parks system will help Grand Rapids
boost economic competitiveness, promote environmental stewardship and enhance
quality of life, which is essential to attract residents, visitors and


Current Situation

Rapid’s parks are underfunded, understaffed and urgently need a new governing
platform. These circumstances hinder our community’s ability to maintain parks,
forfeit critical state and federal funding, accelerate deterioration of public
assets and ultimately fuel a larger and much more expensive backlog of repairs
and improvements. These conditions also compromise our ability to implement
widely supported, long-term plans for improvement and success such as Green Grand Rapids.


Position on the FY2011 Budget Discussion

increasingly robust citizen support for parks, the Parks Department has borne
the brunt of city budget cuts. The department’s maintenance-operation budget
and staffing currently is reduced by more than 20 and 62 percent, respectively,
from 2002 levels. Now
City Hall suggests eliminating the department and “closing” parks altogether.


This is
not the time to abandon parks. It’s time to rebuild them. Regardless of what
happens with the proposed public safety tax in May 2010, city leaders must
choose to shape a FY2011 budget that stabilizes parks funding and accelerates
the transformation of the Parks Department and, by extension, the City. Friends
recommends the following short-term action:    

  • Stop

    City leaders must reject further cuts to the parks budget, hold the line for
    basic maintenance-operation and establish spending priorities consistent with
    the community’s vision and values for parks.

  • Get
    Conduct an
    independent audit of parks spending, establish a credible baseline cost
    projection for parks maintenance and operation and implement performance
    standards that ensure strategic investment of taxpayer dollars.

  • Catalyze
    Public spending alone is not sufficient to rebuild
    parks. The City must
    establish a new strategy and incentives that
    effectively engage citizens, businesses, neighborhoods and other civic groups
    in the effort to maintain and enhance parks.

Steve Faber, executive director (616) 821-8006
Andy Guy, board president (616) 308-6250

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