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Friends of Grand Rapids Parks reflects on success, welcomes new leader

With the help of the community, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks has grown.
Friends of Grand Rapids Parks Spring Spruce Up

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks Spring Spruce Up /Courtesy of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

Underwriting support from:
Friends of Grand Rapids Parks at the Cherry Park opening

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks at the Cherry Park opening /Courtesy of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

Tracey Flower, new Executive Director of FGRP

Tracey Flower, new Executive Director of FGRP /Courtesy of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

In recent years, the City of Grand Rapids has experienced a period of growth and change not seen in decades. As our community continues to adapt and evolve, this process brings with it challenges, opportunities and progress. Thankfully, Grand Rapids is filled with some of the most proud and dedicated citizens in the world who meet these challenges, rise to these opportunities and guide our progress with a focus on sustainability and equity. To see this dynamic first-hand, one needs to look no further than our beautiful City parks.

Our parks have a wonderful history of bringing our community together: providing spaces for neighbors to rest, relax and play; hosting gatherings, celebrations and events; and shining a spotlight on the natural beauty that has drawn people to this area literally for thousands of years. The most recent chapter of this history is a very special one, because the citizens of Grand Rapids have placed a renewed priority on our parks, and their hard work has generated some incredible results.

Thanks to the overwhelming support of the voters in 2013, our City Parks enjoy dedicated funding for enhancement and improvement. This year alone, that funding provided the opportunity to install splash pads, play structures, recreation opportunities like a futsal court and a skate park and countless other amenities at eight of our parks. Enhancements and improvements for six more parks are in the planning stages right now, followed by a new master plan for the entire system in 2016. All of these achievements are possible due to strong community support and partnerships. By connecting the energy of citizens and volunteers, tapping into expertise and leadership from the City of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department and leveraging the generosity and vision of the philanthropic community, this progress is made possible. Fostering those connections and creating collaboration are critical functions of the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks (FGRP).

Our mission is to protect, enhance and expand the City’s parks and public spaces. We believe that inviting and vibrant parks and public spaces contribute to a healthy and prosperous Grand Rapids. This work is only possible with the support of the community, and success is only achieved with the help of all our Friends. Together, we have done some amazing work:

  • Coordinated over 30,000 volunteer hours in our parks since 2009

  • Expanded Joe Taylor Park in a neighborhood underserved for green space

  • Led the effort to create the beautiful Pleasant Park on a former surface parking lot in the South Hill neighborhood

  • Acquired the 4th Street Woods to expand park space and recreational opportunities

  • Led multiple successful fundraising campaigns to keep our City pools open under threat of closure

  • Partnered with the City of Grand Rapids, engaging the community and neighborhoods in the planning of 16 parks and playing a critical role in securing dedicated funding sources for our parks, from capital campaigns and sponsorships to an overwhelming, historic victory at the ballot box in 2013

  • Launched the Urban Forest Project in 2011 in partnership with the City and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, which has been nationally recognized in areas like data driven planning, community engagement and urban forest expansion and management

  • Established a Parks Maintenance and Improvement Fund at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation to help with ongoing maintenance at new parks

These successes are a testament to the work of volunteers, City leaders and passionate citizens across Grand Rapids. Together, we truly are the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. However, these are the stories of past success. They have built a critical, sustainable foundation for growth and prosperity, and now more than ever, we must focus on the future.

In the spirit of building a brighter future for our parks system in Grand Rapids, FGRP is thrilled to announce the hiring of our new Executive Director, Tracey Flower. Flower spent the last decade in the state of Colorado, but has returned to her Michigan roots to lead FGRP as the organization transitions to the next level of work, connection and collaboration. Her most recent role was at the Vail Symposium, a 45-year old nonprofit organization where she rose in the ranks from intern to Executive Director. She brings a spirit of leadership and a passion for the outdoors that will complement and enhance the already great work of FGRP. With a strong focus on access, equity, and sustainability, Flower and the staff at FGRP will be working to build more partnerships and reach more individuals and neighborhoods in the City.

FGRP is grateful for the support of the citizens of Grand Rapids. Without the countless volunteer hours, time, energy and financial support, none of our success would be possible. As we look to the future of our parks together, we are thrilled with the possibilities. As we embark on a new year, please stay in touch with us, get to know Tracey Flower and help us build a more beautiful City. We’ll see you in the parks…


For a list of upcoming FGRP events, please visit here.

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