Joe Taylor Park wins Frontline Park award

Joe Taylor Park

Green Infrastructure in Grand Rapids



Joe Taylor Park (formerly known as Baxter Green) was built in Grand Rapids’ North Baxter neighborhood in 1976, when several home lots were demolished in order to make room for a pocket park.  For decades it was the only open space in a neighborhood plagued with drug trafficking, violence, and poverty. In 1992, the park was renamed Joe Taylor Park in honor of a police officer who was killed in the line of duty in the area.


The Baxter neighborhood consistently topped the lists for crime, housing blight, poor health outcomes, and poverty. Compounding those issues was the lack of open, safe green space that children could use. Minor upgrades to playground equipment were made in 2003, but neighborhood crime and an active road bisecting the park made it unsafe.



In 2004, the city demolished homes adjacent to the park to clear the way for an underground water management facility. Construction on the system, which aimed to separate stormwater and sewer lines for better management and treatment of water, left a large open lot at street level. City officials, local nonprofits, and neighborhood residents seized the opportunity to double the size of Joe Taylor Park, and give it a state-of-the-art, sustainable makeover that would benefit the entire community.



The new and improved Joe Taylor Park opened in 2011, becoming an immediate hit with neighborhood children and setting a new standard for sustainable park design in Grand Rapids. The expansion includes a splashpad, new playground equipment, LED lighting, a community garden site, a permeable concrete parking lot, and a system that irrigates the park’s vegetation using gray water from the sprayground. Aside from the obvious sustainability and recreational benefits, local police officers say that the park has helped to stabilize a portion of the neighborhood and reduced violent crime.


  • City agencies should collaborate on projects that can serve a dual purpose, particularly in dense areas where land acquisition for parks is cost-prohibitive.  Most of the preliminary steps to building a park were completed as a by-product of the water facility construction, so the park expansion was relatively cheap.
  • The community should be involved early in the planning process to make sure the park will meet the needs of those who will be using it most.  Water features are popular, but attract a lot of activity to small neighborhood parks.  Balancing the needs of the residents and the broader community is crucial.


Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

City of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation


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