The future of city parks: Annual Spring Spruce Up calling volunteers

Posted at 5:34 PM, May 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-11 17:34:54-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – After a long winter, the month of May can be a tough one for city parks, which badly need a spring cleaning. This Saturday marks the sixth annual Spring Spruce Up event, where volunteers get parks back in shape.

Across Grand Rapids, there are 74 city-owned parks with more than 1,200 acres. The non-profit group Friends of Grand Rapids Parks teams with neighborhoods and volunteers to clean up the parks every May and throughout the year.

FGRP leaders were out Monday afternoon with The Green Well Gastro Pub staff, getting a head start on spring cleaning at Cherry Park, raking mulch, clipping weeds, and cleaning up the neighborhood.

“We really value the volunteer help, because it allows those city workers to be able to focus on really getting parks back up and running,” said Steve Faber, executive director of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, "turning water on, fixing things that have been broken over the winter."

The Green Well Gastro Pub is just a block away is, but the lights were out out Monday because, managers said, they closed shop for the day to give back to Cherry Park.

“The community is very important to us,” said Bobby Randall, assistant general manager with the pub. "Guests are number one, and we want the guests to be able to come out here and use this park."

“We want to be able to show the community that we want to get down and dirty and help out,” said Randall. "If it’s worth us closing down for a day to do it, we’re going to do it."

The day of giving back was just in time for the season of cleaning up. Saturday’s Spring Spruce Up will take place 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at 10 parks, each chosen for the work needed to remove invasive plants:

  • Bike Park
  • Briggs Park
  • Clemente Park
  • Highland Park
  • Hillcrest Park
  • Huff Park
  • Mulick Park
  • Oakdale Gardens
  • Richmond Park
  • Roosevelt Park

“Our parks are an amazing asset in our community, and for many years they were what I consider a forgotten asset, and almost considered a liability,” said Faber. “We’ve been able, as a community, to consistently turn that around.”

Over the past six years, Faber said parks have been turning around in part to more revenue and interest, as well as private-public partnerships like Monday’s at Cherry Park, and it’s a trend Faber sees as going strong.

“[City parks] are economic development tools, they are health and wellness tools, they are great for the environment,” said Faber. “There’s a lot of additional ways that we can talk about parks that I didn’t see us necessarily talking about six years ago.”

For more information on the Spring Spruce Up, or other volunteer opportunities, see the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks website.