Public gets 1st look at proposed GR park upgrades

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — More than a year after voters in Grand Rapids approved a tax to fix up city parks, residents are getting a chance to see how those tax dollars may be used.

Plans for improvement to eight neighborhood parks — including Cherry, Fuller, Garfield, Highland, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Westown Commons and Wilcox parks — were unveiled Wednesday during an open house at the Gerald R. Ford Academic Center on Madison Avenue SE.

>>Inside woodtv.com: Park planning review (pdf)

Steve Faber, who heads the nonprofit Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, said the organization asked residents for their opinions as plans were formulated.

“How do they see their park being used? What are the things that they think would lead to them using the park and caring for the park even more?” he said they asked.

The old caddy shack at Highland Park. (Dec. 3, 2014)
(The old caddy shack at Highland Park.)

The caddy shack at Highland Park is one example of improvement to that northeast Grand Rapids park. It dates back to when Highland Park was a golf course. From the outside, it looks like it has outlived its usefulness.

But after meeting with neighbors, the city and Friends of Grand Rapids Parks decided there was still a lot of life in the old shack. They plan to fix it up with gathering space, restrooms and possibly a deck off the back.

“Kind of imagine it as more of a plaza back here,” Faber explained.

Wednesday’s open house gave residents a chance to see the results of feedback they have been giving the city and Friend of Grand Rapids Parks, and tweak plans for their neighborhood park.

“We’re really just, again, hoping to get some feedback from the community as to are we getting this stuff right,” Faber said.

Passed by city voters in the fall of 2013, the parks millage is expected to generate about $4 million a year. While that’s a vast improvement after the city cut a huge chunk of the parks and recreation budget over the last decade, even $4 million only goes so far.

“An average playground investment is $75,000 to $100,000,” Faber said. “That playground needs to be built in a way that it can withstand my kids using it incorrectly for the next 20 years.”

So choices had to be made and spending has to be strategic.

An example is the pool at Highland Park. It’s set to be filled in. Built in the early 2000s, budget cuts closed the pool just a few years later. Despite the millage, there’s still not enough money to fund it.

And Faber says the pool is not a priority among neighbors.

“But there’s plans to then put in a splash pad and then eventually, own the line, eventually a dog park,” Faber said.

You can learn more about proposed improvements by visiting the PARKS CONCEPT PAGE

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