What is the new Parks Alive Leaders Program?

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is working hard to encourage its newest community program Parks Alive Leaders! We want as many people as possible to give this program a try and help FGRP lift up our beautiful city parks! Below is a Q & A with Parks Alive Leader advisory board member Amanda St. Amour about the program! Learn more about PAL below!

Q: Amanda, the popular Citizen Forester program offers cool classes and events. What does the PAL program offer for folks?  

A: The PAL program is similar to the Citizen Forester program in that it offers great classes and other learning opportunities.  The focus of the PAL program is to prepare people who care about the state of the neighborhood parks to take active involvement in maintaining or improving the use of their park. The PAL program teaches the basics of what goes into keeping a park healthy, whether it’s how to get the city’s attention, caring for the park ecosystem, or getting more people into the park to enjoy it.

Q: The Citizen Forester program also has requirements for participants. Does the PAL program require people to do things too?

The PAL program has a few requirements of PAL groups so they can take full advantage of the resources that are available. The first step is to take a few free classes and FGRP makes this easy by offering them throughout the year and at all different locations in the City.  The next step is to form a core group of individuals who want to focus on a specific park and agree to meet a few times a year.  The PAL program also suggests that a group provides a simple summary of typical park use – the materials and training for all of this are provided for free, so it’s simple to do.

There is plenty of flexibility built into the program, so PAL groups have lots of options for meeting the requirements and program goals.

Q: Many neighborhoods already plan events in their parks and even have neighborhood groups. Should these people get involved in PAL too? How does that work?

A. Absolutely!  Attending PAL classes are still beneficial to groups that have already been working in their parks.  And by attending classes and adding PAL goals to their existing group goals, a neighborhood will be eligible for PAL benefits like event advertising help and grant opportunities. In fact, if a group is already meeting and planning events, those would likely count toward PAL requirements – so there’s no reason not to do it!

Q: What are a few easy ways for people to get involved in the PAL program if they don’t live in a neighborhood with groups and events going on?

Talking to neighbors will almost certainly turn up other people who care as much about the park as you do. Consider approaching the people you see in the park on a regular basis. Even if they might not live in the neighborhood, chances are they are there because they love that park and might want to participate in event planning there.  I would also recommend just attending a class. The classes are full of people who want to get involved, maybe one of them lives in your neighborhood.

Q: Why are you involved in the PAL program, considering how busy life in Grand Rapids can be?

A: I love helping with and attending parks in my neighborhood. It’s a great way to meet neighbors and I have formed long lasting friendships with people I have met though neighborhood park events. The PAL program is a great way to increase my group’s ability to bring more attention to our chosen park. More attention means more use, safer parks and happier, healthier people.

To learn more about the Parks Alive Leaders Program email Rachel at rachel@friendsofgrparks.org.

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