Friends in the news

I LOVE GR PARKS grows in year 2

Over 450 volunteers came out to improve parks for the 2nd Annual I LOVE GR PARKS – roughly a 33% increase from year one.  The Independent Sector recently announced that the estimated value of a volunteer hour reached $20.85 in 2009.  Using this estimate, the morning of work could be valued at over $28,000 for city parks in addition to thousands of dollars in in-kind contributions from local businesses and groups.

 

We expanded to 4 additional parks this year.  Each of the 20 parks participating in I LOVE GR PARKS had a local Park Coordinator that identified projects and coordinated neighborhood volunteers.  Here were some of their accomplishments.

 

  • 6 playgrounds re-surfaced
  • 1 dog park surfaced
  • 3 park invasive species removal projects
  • 4 park buildings painted
  • 4 repaired swings and benches
  • 9 parks with newly painted benches and picnic tables
  • 5 native trees planted
  • Countless flowers/ bushes planted, weeds pulled and trash picked up

An event like this isn’t possible without planning and support from many groups and organizations.  Special thanks to Meijer, Inc. for supported I LOVE GR PARKS with individual gift cards which were given to Park Coordinators for beautification projects and volunteer support.  The City of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Dept. supplied much of the necessary equipment and supplies to achieve complete the specified tasks.

 

Plenty Creative, GRPS, Citizen Shirt, Sobie Meats, Forest Hills Foods and Swift Printing allowed us to make this event more affordable with reduced costs or donations.

In addition to many dedicated residents, the following groups and organizations volunteered: Young Nonprofit Professionals Assoc., BL2END, Living Green in Creston, DeVries Properties, The Other Way, North Park PTA, Plante Moran, West Leonard CRC, Living Stones Academy PTA, West Mich. Mountain Bike Assoc. , San Chez Green Team, Pro Care Tree Service

Several Neighborhood Associations also assisted our efforts to coordinate neighborhood support: West Grand, East Hills, Eastown Community Assoc., Heritage Hill, Neighbors of Belknap Lookout, Creston, Roosevelt Park, Heartside.

 

I LOVE GR PARKS is about getting work done, but it’s more than that.  So while the outputs of painted benches, flowers planted, trees trimmed, etc. are great, the real outcomes are in people connecting with their local community and public spaces.  We had the honor of hearing many of these stories at the picnic at Wilcox Park following the spruce-up. 

 

  • We had a new park participate on the SW side of Grand Rapids where a husband and wife were our Park Coordinators.  A slow start turned into a park party with 14 families pitching in to make a difference.  

  • The first official Bike Park was opened thanks to the hard work of volunteers and the West Michigan Mountain Bike Association.  

 

  • On the SE side of town we spoke with some returning Park Coordinators from last year. They spoke to us about feeling so much more ahead of the game this year as they still could see the progress they made over last summer.  They began sharing some dreams and visions for what could happen next in their park and how they want to start taking on some bigger projects.

 

  • We also saw some meaningful tree plantings this year.  In Garfield Park we returned 4 Bur Oak trees to their homes thanks to some thoughtful neighbors and conservationists at Calvin College.  These trees were the descendants of an original Oak planted by Garfield himself that died several years ago. We also helped a family plant a tree at Lookout Park in remembrance of a daughter that was lost pre-term last year.  May 16thwas her due date.

 

In general, we saw people making great neighborhood connections and taking pride in their city. THANK YOU!

 

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