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Community updates: Friday, April 23

Grand Rapids park improvements continue through millage investments, leveraged funding; artist registration opens for ArtPrize 2021; MDHHS extends epidemic order, expands face covering requirement to kids age two and up; and more.
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Natural play space being constructed at Ken-O-Sha Park, using recycled fallen trees.

Natural play space being constructed at Ken-O-Sha Park, using recycled fallen trees. /City of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation; VIRIDIS Design Group

Grand Rapids park improvements continue through millage investments, leveraged funding

Progress on city park improvements throughout Grand Rapids marches on, with 26 parks currently under construction or slated to be in the near future, the city’s Parks and Recreation department announced.

Among current and upcoming improvement projects are downtown’s Rosa Parks Circle and Heartside Park, the southeast side’s Ken-O-Sha Park, and the southwest’s Roberto Clemente Park. These parks, like others to see updates, are the beneficiaries of the city’s voter-approved 2013 and 2019 parks millages, as well as funding from grants and external organizations.

For Rosa Parks Circle updates, starting May 3, a rehabilitation will happen for its central meeting space and sculptural work Ecliptic by artist Maya Lin. This includes new seating, lighting, stage space, and landscaping, among other items. For Roberto Clemente Park, ongoing work includes a new gender-neutral restroom building, picnic shelter, lighted pedestrian pathways, and more.

According to Parks and Recreation, the 2013 millage alone has provided $28 million in park improvement investments since it passed. $6 million of this has gone to 26 park projects either currently underway or planned to be in the near future, with an additional $4.2 million in leveraged funding also contributing.

The 2019 millage, generating park improvement funds indefinitely, will provide around $5 million per year to such projects after July 1, 2021. $3 million of this will go specifically toward continued capitial improvements and rehabilitation of the city's 75 total paks.

We are continually grateful for the voter-approved parks millage so that important park improvement projects, like those highlighted, can continue to be advanced,” said David Marquardt, Parks and Recreation Director. “Our commitment is to continue to be good stewards of these important public funds.”

The other parks currently under construction or planned to be in the near future are: Aman; Briggs; Burton Woods; Camelot; Canal and Sixth St.; Caulfield; Covell Dog Park; Eastern; Fish Ladder; Fourth St. Woods; Garfield; Heritage Hill; Hillcrest; Kensington; Midtown; Nagold; Paris and Seymour; Pekich; Pleasant; Richmond; Riverside; downtown riverwalk (Blue Bridge to JW Marriott); Sigsbee; and Sweet St.

A full list and details of planned park improvements in Grand Rapids, beyond the initial 26, are available on the Parks Projects page on the city’s website.


Grand Rapids city commissioners approve city-sponsored events for 2021

City-sponsored events are back in Grand Rapids this year, after last week’s approval by city commissioners of dozens of special events between April and Dec.

The move comes in response to increased COVID-19 vaccinations within Grand Rapids and anticipation of post-pandemic social life, according to a Monday statement by the City of Grand Rapids. As of Friday, around 50 events per month throughout the summer have been planned.

Among special events returning are the city’s Fourth of July fireworks celebration happening downtown on July 3. Others are the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Festival in June and Grand Rapids African American Art and Music Festival in Sept.

“It is exciting to see the return of the events and activities that make Grand Rapids vibrant,” Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said. “With vaccinations and overall safety awareness on the rise, bringing our community together through these events will be a much-needed step towards rebuilding our local economy and city life.”

All special events will be permitted in accordance with the current state executive and emergency orders and an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) that details event organizers’ plans to mitigate the virus. The EAP will be reviewed by the city’s Office of Special Events and Fire Department, with guidance from the Kent County Health Department.

A full list of approved special events is available on the city’s website.


Artist registration opens for ArtPrize 2021

Artist registration opened on Monday for this year’s ArtPrize – another 2021 event approved by city commissioners.

The international art competition will take place in downtown Grand Rapids from Sept. 16 through Oct. 3. Anyone over 18, from across the globe, can apply to participate and seek cash prizes totaling $250,000.

The return of the event comes after last year’s run was cancelled over pandemic-related concerns. This year’s run will be its first since organizers moved the annual event to an every-other-year schedule, originally to start in 2020.

Radically open and independently organized, ArtPrize plays no role in selecting the artists who participate,” the organization said in a Wednesday statement. “Venues and artists find each other on, form connections, and organize their own shows.”

Artist registration will remain open through June 10. Venue registration ended on April 15, with more than 125 venues seeking to connect with at least one artist in the coming weeks, according to ArtPrize.

Wednesday also marked the opening of applications for 2021 ArtPrize Artist Equity Grants. Through this new program, ArtPrize will support artists from underrepresented backgrounds to participate in the 2021 event. It will also seek to underwrite work that intentionally focuses on diverse, innovative, challenging, and engaging themes.

Artists selected for Equity Grants will receive $1,000-$5,000 each to help with fabrication, shipping, travel, and other considerations necessary to support their participation.

Artist registration and grant applications for ArtPrize 2021 are available through the organization’s website.


MDHHS extends epidemic order, expands face covering requirement to kids age two and up

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) on April 16 extended its epidemic order limiting social gathering sizes, and expanded its face covering requirement in public spaces to children age two to four.

The move came in response to an increase in new COVID-19 cases among younger Michiganders, according to the MDHHS, and guidance from the CDC. The department cited a 475 percent increase in growth since February, as well as an increase in the state’s test positivity and hospital capacity rates since the same time.

Extension of the epidemic order runs through May 24. For the expanded age range for face covering use in public spaces, this requirement takes effect April 26.

"Michigan continues to implement smart health policies and mitigation measures to fight the spread of COVID-19," said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel. “Additionally, the most important thing people can do right now is to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves and their families, and help us eliminate this virus once and for all.”

Among restrictions within the MDHHS’ order are a limit on indoor residential gatherings larger than 15 people, with no more than three households, and a 50 percent capacity for indoor entertainment venues, or limit of 300 people. A full list of current restrictions is available on the State of Michigan’s website.


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