The Rapidian

Community gathers to build outdoor gym at MLK Park

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

Friends of Grand Rapids partnered with Project FIT and community members to install an outdoor fitness center where the wading pool once sat.
day 2: installation of equipment!

day 2: installation of equipment! /Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

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If you are interested in becoming more involved, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is partnering with Project FIT again to install another fitness center at Roosevelt Park on July 22 & 23. Check out their website for more details.

unwrapping and assembling fitness equipment.

unwrapping and assembling fitness equipment. /LINC community revitalization inc

a passerby joined in to help haul woodchips.

a passerby joined in to help haul woodchips. /LINC community revitalization inc

After a long week of sitting at the computer it felt great to play in the dirt. Friday morning I joined Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and a diverse group of volunteers at Martin Luther King Park. The task at hand: to prep the grounds for Saturday’s installation of an “outdoor gym.” The fitness centers represent the latest element of Project FIT, a childhood obesity prevention program funded by a $1 million grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Project FIT, which is run by Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine, has worked since 2009 with parents, students and staff at four Grand Rapids elementary schools to encourage healthy lifestyles.

Steve Faber, Executive Director of Friends, shared a warm welcome with all of the volunteers and then handed the mic over to Miracle of Michigan, a recreation equipment company, to explain the build process and assign tasks. The group of MLK Boxing Gym coaches and boxers, Grand Valley students, neighbors, Americorps members and staff from Blue Cross Blue Shield worked hard, assembling the fitness equipment, digging holes and moving yard upon yard of wood surfacing.

As I edged the grass along the sidewalk, Steve commented on the impact that a little spruce-up can have. With each project they complete, Friends makes it a point to leave the surrounding landscape well-tended. “This shows other users that someone actually cares and will hopefully inspire them to care for and take ownership of the park space too.” 

Throughout the day a handful of neighbors and park users stopped by to monitor the progress. Some even picked up a shovel and started hauling wood chips. It was a beautiful thing.

Juan Bradford, from Miracle of Michigan, shared the importance of involving the community in a build process. “It reduces the cost of installing playground equipment and allows friends and neighbors to take ownership of the space. If they see someone mistreating the equipment, they are much more likely to call them out because they worked hard to create it.” Community support plays a huge role in the success of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. With a staff of only two, a strong volunteer base is essential as they work to protect, enhance and expand parks and public space in Grand Rapids.


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