New Park, New Street, New Concerns


Neighbors in Grand Rapids’ Baxter Neighborhood are
watching change happen right outside their door: new streets, new sewer
lines, even a brand new park.

But it’s coming with some growing pains.

There are a few different projects at Diamond and Baxter. There’s the
sewer separation project the city is mandated to do.

Then city leaders figured that they’ve wanted to put more greenspace
there for years, so why not do that at the same time.

Alsie Wilkins has lived there 45 years. She’s spent the last 15
watching crime and blight put a strangle on her neighborhood.

But many of the vacant homes have been cleared out to make way for an
extension to Joe Taylor Park with a picnic pavilion, bathrooms, and a
parking lot.

Wilkins has questions about everything from parking to the broken cement
at the bottom of her hill.

“I want a footing in here and a wall to come back up,” said Wilkins,
showing off her damaged retaining cement. “Tall enough so this hill
won’t run off.”

She’s not alone. So the city held an impromptu meeting and gathered
city leaders with staff members, police, and neighborhood leaders to
help answer questions.

“It’s a good group of people here,” said Tiiu Arrak from the city’s
engineering department. “They’re very concerned about what goes on
here, they’ve obviously lived here for a long time.”

Many of the questions concerned the new park, which will cut into one
street.. and extend another.

Plus there are still many empty homes, so crime is a big concern.
They’re worried that the design of the park could influence the
situation, maybe for the worse.

“The design of the park intentionally surrounds the park with houses,
and fits right into the houses,” said Commissioner Jim White. “So that
you can have eyes on the park at all times.”

You may be wondering why the city is building a new park when the city
can barely afford to fund the ones they have.

The Friends of G.R. Parks is putting together a fund drive to build it
and operate it.

The sewer project will probably be done in September. The park,
hopefully before the end of the year.


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