Park of the Month: Roosevelt

739 Van Raalte Dr. SW
Established 1923

Roosevelt Park encompasses 7.27 acres at the southern terminus of Grandville Ave before it becomes Chicago Drive and intersects with Clyde Park Ave. The park is bordered on the east by Potter’s House School and on the west by Plaster Creek.

I mention these landmarks because at one point in time, the Grandville Avenue corridor was heavily populated by working class Dutch people. My Dutch immigrant grandmother was one of them and in this neighborhood where my mother spent her childhood.

Every summer in the 1920s, my mother and her sister would spend their days in Roosevelt Park.

The Park Director, a Mr. Van Os, ran a summer program for the neighborhood children. From my mother’s autobiography:

“There was a little shack where you could make your mother a vase from a pickle jar and glue and wallpaper or anything else with pieces of wood or beads….The playground director also organized ball teams for the older kids and oversaw the younger ones so no one was hurt”.

The GR Historical Commission book, Keep on the Grass, (available in Friends’ Merch Shop!) says: “In 1912 Charles Mills came from Hull House in Chicago to develop and to oversee the playground programs.  Under his direction each city park and playground had its own supervisor and offered children’s activities from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. six days a week during summer months.”

This was such a wonderful experience for my mother and her younger sister, as my grandmother worked all day in a shoe factory and the girls would have been on their own at ages 8 and 11.

On a recent visit to Roosevelt Park, I tried to imagine what the park meant to the neighborhood in 1927.

The impetus for building the park came from the local businessmen in 1923. They argued that there were 1,000 children living in the area without a place to play, and so the city purchased 7 acres for the park.

It is much changed now.  The shack is gone, now replaced by the large Roosevelt Park Lodge.  The park has been updated thanks to the millage for parks passed in 2013.

Available at the the park (some features moreso in the summer) are a .2 mile paved walking path with several equipped exercise stations (just 5 laps to make a mile!), a splash pad, new playground equipment, a field for soccer, picnic tables, murals by local young artists, and a rain garden.

Roosevelt Park gives a lot of space to run and be outdoors.  I’d love to re-visit this park in the summer to see the action!  Thank you to the citizens of Grand Rapids who voted to give this park a face-lift!  Well done!


about the author: elizabeth b.

Elizabeth is a Neighborhood Forester trainee and nature enthusiast! She belongs to the Environmental Justice team at her church, is a member of the West Michigan Sierra Club, and is on a mission to visit every GR park (all 76!). You can follow her journey and learn more about our city parks at her blog, www.cityparksgrmi.org.



Back to Articles