The Rapidian Home

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks plans summer barbecue series, new mural, expanded citizen forester classes

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is partnering with several local organizations to build stronger parks and neighborhoods.
Citizen foresters planting a tree with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

Citizen foresters planting a tree with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks /Courtesy of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

Underwriting support from:
Citizen foresters at Clemente Park

Citizen foresters at Clemente Park /Courtesy of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

Parks Alive Leaders class

Parks Alive Leaders class /Courtesy of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

A city is only as strong as the community of people who work, live, play and build lives within it. It takes a robust network of individuals, businesses and organizations all working together to support that community. Building strong communities, strong neighborhoods and, ultimately, a strong city requires that network to also come together to make sure the most underserved among us are strengthened by our efforts.

At Friends of Grand Rapids Parks (FGRP), we love bringing people together around our City’s parks and green spaces. So much of the life that happens in a thriving neighborhood, happens in a park, from a frosty run down a sledding hill to a neighborhood barbeque to a trip to the splash pad to cool off on a steamy summer day.

Over the coming months, we’re excited to be partnering with local funders and other groups and organizations to increase our reach and impact in more neighborhoods throughout the City. Here’s a sampling of what we’re planning for the spring and beyond.


Neighborhood Barbeque Series

We’ll be working with the Kent County Health Department to increase engagement with underserved neighborhoods in the park improvement process, thanks to a Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health grant from the Centers for Disease Control. Among other exciting initiatives and events, we’ll be launching a summer barbeque series as part of this project from June through September.

In order to have a strong city and strong neighborhoods, ownership of hyerlocal community assets must be strong. This includes parks. Instead of asking neighbors to drive across town to beautify a park, we want to bring the opportunities to the neighbors in order to demonstrate the exciting potential within each park. Too often we have spoken to neighbors who are quick to profess love for their park but unsure of leading changes like clean ups, flower plantings or a neighborhood barbeque. Grand Rapids has seen tremendous growth and positive change in recent years but FGRP wants to ensure that every neighbor has the opportunity and the encouragement to be a part of that change.

Our neighborhood barbeque series will be an opportunity for neighbors to come together around their local park. Our staff will be on site to help neighbors through a park improvement project like a clean-up or tree maintenance. After this hands-on chance to improve the park, we’ll celebrate with a classic Michigan summer barbeque where FGRP staff and neighbors will mingle and chat about hopes and wishes for their park.

This series may sound simple but the concept is one that highlights the importance of place. Cities grow when programs come to the people and engage on site listening and working together, and we are so excited to bring our tools, our ideas and our hamburgers, to our City’s parks this summer.


Art and a Rain Garden at Roosevelt Park

Over the next several weeks, students at Cook Arts Center will work together on a mural for the restroom structure at Roosevelt Park. The mural will be installed this spring on the southeast facing wall of the structure, enhancing the visual beauty of the space and giving students an opportunity to highlight the character of the neighborhood through artwork. In 2017, a new mural will be installed on the northwest facing wall of the structure and in 2018 and 2019, the previous two murals will be exchanged for new artwork, giving multiple generations of student artists the opportunity to participate.

The inaugural artwork will be installed this April and celebrated during an educational event at the park, hosted by West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC), in May, where WMEAC and Plaster Creek Stewards will install a rain garden in the park, along with an educational sign about the garden. All three organizations are community partners working with FGRP and Herman Miller Cares to make improvements to Roosevelt Park.


Educating Parks and Urban Forest Leaders

At FGRP we know that, just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to help an organization like ours fulfill its mission and increase its reach, which is where our Parks Alive Leaders and Citizen Foresters come in. Both of these programs offer a free course series with classes that educate and empower community members to lead park and tree initiatives within their own neighborhood. Individuals who graduate from these programs go on to spearhead everything from tree maintenance projects to major park improvements to neighborhood park block parties.

Starting this spring, both programs will hold classes in a larger variety of neighborhoods in order to offer more individuals the opportunity to attend. Double the number of Parks Alive Leaders classes in 2016 will be hosted than in 2015. Our goal with both programs is to have parks and tree citizen leaders in all neighborhoods in Grand Rapids.


Learn more about these and other parks and Urban Forest Project programs and events on our website.

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.