Friends of Grand Rapids Parks will recognize three community leaders with the 2014 Charles Garfield Awards at its 5th Annual Membership Event tonight. This is the inaugural year for the awards, named for Charles W. Garfield, an early 20th century advocate for urban green space in Grand Rapids and founder of the Parks & Boulevard Association.

Recipients of the 2014 Charles Garfield Awards will be:

  • Samuel Cummings, Civic and Community Leadership Award
  • Denise Coykendall, Volunteer of the Year Award
  • Ron Staal, Above and Beyond Award

“These three individuals have demonstrated outstanding commitment to enhancing, expanding and protecting parks, the urban forest and public spaces throughout Grand Rapids,” said Friends of Grand Rapids Parks Executive Director, Steve Faber. “Their distinct gifts of time, advocacy, passion, expertise and dollars have been invaluable to our mission and have made a tremendous positive impact on our community.”

The Civic and Community Leadership Award recognizes an individual or group that has shown exceptional leadership in ensuring parks and public spaces are guaranteed for future generations. Sam Cummings was selected for the 2014 award because of his strong and active commitment to ensuring our cities and neighborhoods include parks and public spaces for all to enjoy.

“Sam has been hands-on with this issue at both the local and state level,” said Faber. “In his work on the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, he’s been at the forefront of discussions about how state recreation resources can be used in an urban context, and locally he’s implemented great projects that enhance quality of life.”

Cummings was a pioneer in Grand Rapids’ adopt-a-park initiative, adopting Veteran’s Park in 2004 in conjunction with the renovation and opening of The Fitzgerald, formerly the Grand Rapids YMCA building on Library St., NE.

“I am extremely honored by this award and grateful to Friends of Grand Rapids Parks for their enthusiasm for our city and passionate pursuit of public space preservation and enhancement,” said Cummings, managing partner at CWD Real Estate. “As our city continues to grow, it is essential that we pay attention to the relationship between private and public space and their equally important contributions to placemaking.”

The Volunteer of the Year Award recognizes a dedicated volunteer who has given back to the community through Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. The 2014 award will be given to Denise Coykendall for her many hours of service to Grand Rapids’ urban forest and her neighborhood parks through the FGRP Citizen Forester program.

“Denise is an extremely dedicated volunteer,” said Faber. “She’s always willing to lend a hand for tree plantings and park spruce-ups, and she has made an outstanding impact on our urban forest.”

The Above and Beyond Award recognizes an individual from the City of Grand Rapids who has demonstrated a strong commitment and is an ambassador for community parks and urban forest. The 2014 recipient is Ron Staal who is being honored for 28 years of service to the City of Grand Rapids’ Parks and Recreation Department and his tremendous commitment to helping people connect with and enjoy our city parks. Ron will be retiring next season.


Staal’s Parks and Recreation colleague Steve Krogman observed, “What I will miss most about Ron is his dedication to the parks and the pride with which he performs his job each day.”

“All three award recipients typify the spirit of Charles Garfield, who’s been described as Grand Rapids’ ‘First Citizen,’” said Faber. “We owe so much of our current park system, playgrounds, open space, and urban forest to Mr. Garfield.  He is a testament to why engaged citizens, like the three we are honoring today, are so critical to the success of our parks system in the future.”

More on the history of Charles W. Garfield can be found by visiting:






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