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About our Summer Series: BBQ & Beautify

BBQ & Beautify popped into our minds almost immediately at the start of a staff meeting when we were casually talking about parks as a space where neighbors meet and, with a little magic, community grows.

First BBQ at Lincoln Park, 2015

First BBQ at Lincoln Park, 2015

We reflected on last summer when the Urban Forest Project held one of its regular tree pruning sessions, called After Work Tree Time, in Lincoln Park. Over fifteen volunteers gathered to remove weak, dead, damaged, and insect or disease infected limbs to help trees stay healthier. Following 2 hours of intensive hazard removing pruning everyone gathered to indulge in a BBQ; right in the park where they had been volunteering their time in for the last couple hours. Conversations about what they learned echoed through the park as passerby park users joined in on the BBQ. Citizen Foresters and first-time volunteers talked about the trees in Lincoln Park, comparing them to other trees in their own community and shared park memories.

As a nonprofit whose acclaimed accomplishments are a direct result of citizen-led volunteerism, a critical component of our events is the experience created for the end user. We strive to ensure that our volunteers not only receive appropriately challenging park and tree tasks during beautification events, but that they’re also plugged into the community of tree and park advocates that Friends of Grand Rapids Parks began growing in 2008.

Laying the foundation for this distinct community to grow was the beginning, but feeding that growth through continued neighborhood-level engagement is what is now essential. Programming of community-oriented park activities and strengthening of neighborhood communications is a big part of making our parks more cohesive as well as promoting community pride in our parks and generating dedicated park leaders.

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BBQ & Beautify at Ken-O-Sha Park

The residents who come out to our BBQ series are a unique mix of first-time volunteers excited to see action in their local park and volunteers who have been attending our events since 2008.

The BBQ series is a positive step toward bringing Friends of GR Parks’ staff and our dedicated volunteers closer to the communities we serve. We’re hosting the BBQ & Beautify series for three key reasons; to bring neighbors together to celebrate our unique parks, to give people the chance to speak about their dream for our parks system, and to provide an opportunity for neighbors to maintain and improve their park and trees together.

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BBQ & Beautify at Garfield Park

To date summer crowds have gathered in both Garfield and Ken-O-Sha Parks to enjoy free food, yard games, fun giveaways, and the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with fellow neighbors about the improvements they want to see in their park. This week the series is coming to Richmond Park on July 26th, on August 16th we’ll be in Joe Taylor Park, on August 31st in Sigsbee Park, and on September 8th in MLK Park.

So far, over 110 people have come out to enjoy the food and festivities with ages ranging from 3 to 73 years old! The series is a great way to build neighborhood spirit while also demonstrating that each of us comes with unique gifts, talents, and creativity that can collectively help improve our parks.

For more information on our upcoming events, please visit our calendar here: www.friendsofgrparks.org/events/

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