The Rapidian Home

Community updates: Friday, Sept. 24

Mayor’s Greening Initiative bringing 300 new trees to Burton Heights neighborhood; search process starts for new Grand Rapids police chief; Grand Rapids African American Art & Music Festival happening this Saturday; and more.
Volunteers planting trees during a previous Mayor's Greening Initiative event.

Volunteers planting trees during a previous Mayor's Greening Initiative event. /Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

Mayor’s Greening Initiative bringing 300 new trees to Burton Heights neighborhood

The volunteer-led Mayor’s Greening Initiative in Grand Rapids is back next month to plant 250 new trees in the Burton Heights neighborhood, with an extra 50 trees being given away to local residents.

The community is invited by organizer Friends of Grand Rapids Parks (FGRP) to volunteer for the effort, which will help the City of Grand Rapids reach its goal of a 40 percent tree canopy across the city. Tree canopy refers to areas shaded by trees.

Hosted by Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, this fall’s Greening Initiative happens Friday, Oct. 8 from 1-4pm and Saturday, Oct. 9 from 10am-1pm. Trees will be planted by volunteers throughout the Burton Heights area, based on the city’s southeast side near Plaster Creek Family Park.

"Trees play a critical role in cleaning our air, reducing stormwater runoff, beautifying our neighborhoods, and lowering stress," Mayor Bliss said. "I hope community members will join me again this year in making our city a greener, more sustainable community."

The fall planting is part two of this year’s initiative. In the spring, the mayor hosted an Arbor Day Celebration Planting, with community members adding 50 new trees to the city and giving away 50 more to neighbors.

COVID-related safety precautions will be in place for next month’s events, according to FGRP. Among them are volunteer shifts with a limited number of volunteers, sanitizing of planting tools, and advance virtual training for volunteers to learn how to plants trees.

The Mayor’s Greening Initiative is a longstanding partnership between FGRP, the City of Grand Rapids, the city’s Forestry division, and local neighborhood associations to plant hundreds of trees in a different neighborhood each year. Registration for next month’s run is available through FGRP's website.


Search process starts for new Grand Rapids police chief

The search for Grand Rapids’ next police chief is now underway, after city commissioners last week approved a contract with an executive search firm to work with the city’s Human Resources department and City Manager Mark Washington throughout the process.

Washington said the police chief hiring process will be robust and include a public engagement component. The firm aiding the process is Public Sector Search & Consulting Inc. (PSSC).

Virtual public engagement events will be held by the City of Grand Rapids in the near future to collect feedback about the search, it said in a Wednesday statement. Additionally, SSC will reach out to community stakeholders to develop a candidate profile. Each group will be asked to provide feedback on the personal characteristics and professional experience most important for the role.

"I encourage our residents and other community members to participate and have their voices heard," Washington said of the search. "Input from our neighborhoods and the community is critical to helping us select the right person."

Last month, Chief Eric Payne announced his retirement after more than three decades at the GRPD and assuming his current role in 2019. He cited more time with his family and progress on his position goals within the GRPD as reasons for retirement.

City Manager Washington assures the community that Payne will remain in his role through the appointment of the new chief.

Other aspects of the police chief search include PSSC gathering and screening applications, candidates being interviewed by several city panels, and public meet and greets with the finalists later this year, according to the City of Grand Rapids. Washington will ultimately make the appointment, expected early next year.

More details about the search process for Grand Rapids’ next police chief are available on the City of Grand Rapids’ website.


Grand Rapids African American Art & Music Festival happening this Saturday

The annual Grand Rapids African American Art & Music Festival is back this Saturday, Sept. 25, to help the community celebrate the contributions of African Americans through the visual and performing arts.

Happening at the piazza at downtown’s Studio Park from noon to 10pm, the free celebration will feature music performances, food and merch vendors, and more.

Among performers at the festival will be Grand Rapids poet laureate Kyd Kane, music group Entyce, New City Kids, and around a half dozen other acts.

"The boundless artistic contributions of African Americans will be highlighted during the Grand Rapids African American Art & Music Festival," organizers said in the festival’s Facebook event page. "The festival will immerse the community in art, music, dance, and food reflecting the many facets of the city's diversity."

With over 40 years in existence, the festival has taken place at various outdoor locations, including Martin Luther King Park. Like last year’s event, there will be COVID-19 safety protocols, with face coverings strongly recommended regardless of vaccination status.

More details about the Grand Rapids African American Art & Music Festival are available through its Facebook page.


Circle Theatre, Wealthy Theatre team back up for outdoor Halloween move nights

Circle Theatre and Wealthy Theatre are rejoining forces for the hosting of outdoor Halloween movies next week. The collaboration is the second year in a row the community theatres have done so.

Taking place on the lawn of Circle Theatre, the theaters will be screening The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hocus Pocus. Circle Theatre is located on the campus of Aquinas College.

Rocky Horror will be featured Sept. 29 and Oct. 2, with Hocus Pocus showing on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. All nights will feature activities themed with the movies, such as prop bags to act along with and costume contests. Circle Theatre’s Shadow Cast will also perform throughout Rocky Horror’s showings.

"Circle Theatre is so excited to be joining forces with Wealthy, for the second year in a row, presenting these movies outdoors, and sharing entertainment with our community," said John Vesbit, Circle Theatre Experience Manager.

"Beyond the fun of dancing the 'Time Warp,' and conjuring up a witch's spell, I truly believe that now, more than ever, Grand Rapids' community organizations must seek deeper collaboration and sharing of resources," he added. "These events with Wealthy and Circle are a perfect roadmap of how we can do that going forward."

The movies will begin at 8pm, with costume contests happening 15 minutes before. More details about the movie nights are available on Circle Theatre and Wealthy Theatre’s websites.


Sharing your stories

The Rapidian encourages local residents to share their own stories related to civic, economic, and public health developments in the Grand Rapids area on The Rapidian’s platform. To get started as a community reporter, visit

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.