What's included in the City of Grand Rapids and its surrounding areas?
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The community of Grand Rapids keeps expanding, as evidenced in this image from 1868
The Rapidian is now available for coverage of "the City of Grand Rapids and its surrounding areas," which includes Walker, Grandville, Wyoming, Kentwood, Grand Rapids Township, East Grand Rapids, Planfield Township, Ada, Comstock Park and Cascade.
Our original boundaries
When The Rapidian was started almost three years ago, we defined "hyperlocal" as anything within the the city limits of Grand Rapids. Our granting proposal we created even specified that this is what we would be covering. Compared to other hyperlocal sites, which focused on areas as small as a single neighborhood, our limitations at the time seemed pretty expansive.
Through the years, though, it has turned out to not be as expansive as we all thought it would be. You, the readers and reporters, have been showing us the unnecessary limitations with your requests and suggestions for great stories and in our discussions with you about what The Rapidian is and what it does. We were listening, and having discussions behind the scenes as well..
With our goal always to be a platform for all voices in our community, we kept asking who that community really is. Two things in particular helped us adjust those boundaries.
Let's face it, if there's a baseball game (or a mid-winter beer celebration) at the ballpark, we consider that a Grand Rapids event. If there are concerts or butterflies at Frederick Meijer Gardens, we think of that as happening in Grand Rapids as well. But events like this were actually happening, according to the maps, in surrounding towns like Comstock Park and Grand Rapids Township. That meant that there was no place for these community events on our pages.
It just didn't seem quite right.
We have people doing great things all around us, just barely outside those lines on a map of our municipality. Each time we had to explain the map boundaries, we felt like we were excluding our neighbors on a technicality.
"Where are you from?"
This telling question reveals identity. It tells us how we think about our selves, our place and our community. Do you ever hear anyone saying "I'm from Grand Rapids Township" or explaining to an out-of-stater the important distinction between Comstock Park and Grand Rapids proper? Or do they answer the question with a simple "I'm a Grand Rapidian" more often than not?
Of course, there are reasons each town is distinct, or we wouldn't have maps to lay that out for us. But as a community, we identify collectively as Grand Rapids. There's an identity there, and we're proud of that identity. If The Rapidian was to be representing a community (and not just lines drawn on a map), we needed to rethink our coverage.
Expanding to better fit reality
So how should we expand? What is the "Grand Rapids identity?" We felt the weight of the decision- to define a community- on our shoulders, and took it seriously.
Now that funding grants are over (ahem.) and with them the requirements we set up with our generous foundations, we have decided it's time.
We're pleased to be able to re-form what's possible on The Rapidian, every day, in collaboration with our reporters and our broader community. We're constantly searching together for what we should be sharing on these "pages," and today, we started sharing as the community of Grand Rapids instead of the city of Grand Rapids.
We're looking forward to the contributions from new citizen reporters in our new surrounding towns and townships. We can't wait for all of you from our new coverage area to join our reporters as we continue to work towards our goal: to provide a place for all voices in our community to share their information, their opinions, their events... to share their stories.
the red penner, ink slinger, storyteller, page changer. when not working as the managing editor at The Rapidian, holly is typically found scribbling in her journal, playing in her studio, getting muddy in the garden, or experimenting in the kitchen. she has a not-so-tiny boy for a son and a very patient man for a husband.