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[HEARTSIDE] First Picnic in Heartside Pocket Park a Success!

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Commissioner Talen (far left) and Jay Fowler during Lunch in the Park

Commissioner Talen (far left) and Jay Fowler during Lunch in the Park /Jenn Schaub

Sarah Scott, Ann Platz, and Natalie Good from Heartside Gallery

Sarah Scott, Ann Platz, and Natalie Good from Heartside Gallery /Jenn Schaub

Lunchers in the Park

Lunchers in the Park /Jenn Schaub

Thirty-four Heartside-area neighbors, workers and park boosters spent their lunch hour at the new pocket park at the corner of Division and Cherry yesterday afternoon. The event was organized at a special community meeting held in response to the recent controversy and media attention surrounding the park (watch Mayor Heartwell discuss the pocket park and it’s issues on Monday’s edition of City Connection on GRTV).

The picnic was the first in a series of regular luncheons planned to help change the perception of the park, which has been addled by reports of drug and alcohol abuse, loitering and other illegal activity.

Jenn Schaub, The Assistant to the Director of Neighborhood Revitalization at the Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids (“Yes, it’s really that long”), sees the challenges faced by the park as part of the natural evolution of community.

“I think that, as with every community coming together, we have new populations and existing populations and everyone needs to sometimes have an adjustment period until everyone feels comfortable being in and sharing the same space. And so, hopefully, over the time that we come down for lunch and hang out we’ll get more comfortable all being in the same area. That’s why we’re here,” Schaub said.

Jay Fowler, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), the agency which spearheaded the development of the park, was excited at the opportunity to get to know some of the people who use the it regularly.

“I’ve been meaning to come down and use the park more,” Fowler said. “What it took was an event to make that happen. So having Jenn send an email saying, 'hey, we’re going to have lunch in the park come and join us' was really the tipping point to say 'OK that’s the day I’m going to use the park!'”

Like Schaub, Sheri Munsell, secretary at Take Hold Church (222 S. Division), sees the event as a way to get to know the rest of the community that she lives and works in.

“I was really surprised by the amount of people that showed up and I am really happy about the resident and business owner participation today.”  

“I think this is so cool!” said Kent County Commissioner Jim Talen. “I ride by here a lot and if I have time I’ll come and hang out with folks. I really enjoy doing that. Really interesting people here… so when I heard this was happening, and I don’t work that far away, I thought “what a better way to spend a lunch time, you know? I would look forward to this becoming a regular thing.”

The next lunch in the park will take place at noon on Friday, May 21, and the park will be officially dedicated as a city park on June 3rd at 5 o'clock.

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