first 8 grand rapids parks to get plans for millage money: what improvements would you make?

By Matt Vande Bunte | mvandebu@mlive.com 
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on July 24, 2014 at 11:00 AM, updated July 24, 2014 at 11:39 AM

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Seven parks where the city plans to remove swimming and wading pools could start getting splash pads in 2015, funded by revenue from the city’s new parks tax.

With the search for a new parks director still going, Grand Rapids City Commission has hired Friends of Grand Rapids Parks to facilitate neighborhood plans for eight parks during the rest of this year. The list includes one park without any current recreational water features – Roosevelt Park.

“The Southwest Side of the city, primarily the Roosevelt Park neighborhood and Grandville Avenue corridor, really is underserved,” said Steve Faber, executive director of the nonprofit Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. “It’s not necessarily guaranteed that there’ll be a splash pad there, but (the parks board) really wanted to explore that.”

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks will be paid $25,200 to coordinate planning efforts for eight neighborhood parks, in partnership with yet-to-be-hired design consultants. Here’s the list of eight parks:

• Cherry Park, 725 Cherry St. SE
• Fuller Park, 300 Fuller Ave. NE
• Garfield Park, 2111 Madison Ave. SE
• Highland Park, 700 College Ave. NE
• Lincoln Park, 1120 Bridge St. NW
• Roosevelt Park, 739 Van Raalte Drive SW
• Westown Commons, 752 Watson St. SW
• Wilcox Park, 100 Youell Ave. SE

Except for Roosevelt Park, the other parks all have wading pools or swimming pools planned for removal. Public design meetings later this year will determine whether or not to replace those water features with splash pads.

Some of those parks could get millage-funded splash pads next year.

“We knew we really wanted to focus on water resources out of the gate,” Faber said. “The eight that are on that list are parks that are in need of…a more specific priority plan around the water resource area.”

Grand Rapids had planned to wait for a new parks director to get hired before making plans for major capital improvements in city parks. But that timetable got pushed back when Creighton Wright backed out of the job after initially accepting it.

Connie Bohatch, the city’s director of community services, said the city can’t wait any longer if it wants to start replacing park water features next spring.

RELATED: Hired Grand Rapids parks director backs out, says $103,000 pay is too low

Grand Rapids voters last November approved a 0.98-mill, 7-year property tax that will generate an estimated $4 million annually for parks. The tax costs the owner of a $100,000 home $49 per year.

The money this summer has extended the swimming pool season, which will continue through Sept. 1, and begun making repairs to parks around Grand Rapids.

“We’ve got plenty of work to do with bringing the parks back up to snuff right now,” said Dan Wells, chairman of the city’s parks advisory board. Before moving ahead on major capital improvements, “we’re really waiting for people to weigh in on it” through the planning meetings later this year, he said.

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