Are you ’embarrassed’ by Grand Rapids city parks? – MLIVE


City administrators say they’re maintaining Grand Rapids parks at a grade-C level, even though they’re getting grade-D funding for the job. Second Ward City Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss appreciates the effort, and says it’s not enough.

Bliss during budget talks last week said she is “embarrassed” by the maintenance of city parks, particularly those outside the city center where Downtown Development Authority money doesn’t pitch in.

She’s not the only one concerned. Grand Rapids City Commission this morning will hear a report on the future of city parks from Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and Neighbors for Parks, Pools and Playgrounds. You can follow along in the comments below for updates on the discussion scheduled to start around 10 a.m.

“In a city our size and a city as fantastic as Grand Rapids, a C for parks, particularly in our neighborhoods, is not acceptable,” Bliss said. “You look at the parks in the neighborhoods and it’s hard to not feel sometimes almost embarrassed when you see playground equipment missing, barbecues broken, fences broken, picnic tables broken, bathrooms not open, a port-a-potty in the middle of our park.

“I’m glad we’re at a C and we’re not at a D, but my hope is to get to an A. Parks are really important to neighborhoods and our community.”

Grand Rapids has cut parks funding deeply to deal with budget shortfalls over the past decade, though the city still allocates $4.8 million to parks in its proposed 2013-2014 general-fund budget. That amount is forecast to exceed $5 million by 2016, and city administrators have no idea how to make the parks more affordable: “What this really needs is an infusion of cash,” City Manager Greg Sundstrom said.

Does that mean a parks tax? Follow along below to see what the two citizens’ groups think.

Whatever the source of money, Grand Rapids leaders believe park improvements are needed.

“It was the parks and rec department that took the heaviest hit (when we balanced budget deficits years ago). That was really where the weight was,” Third Ward City Commissioner James White said.

“We discussed it saying that we would make ourselves a promise that we would in the future somehow balance it back, but unfortunately things got worse instead of better and we have not made good.

“This problem of lack of resources has been developing over a long period and I don’t have an easy answer, but I’m hopeful we can keep our promise to make good.”

RELATED: ‘Shooting ourselves in the foot?’ Grand Rapids looks to raise softball, cemetery fees

Back to Articles

Leave a Comment