The Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department unveiled their new Strategic Master Plan at the Grand Rapids Art Museum Thursday morning as park officials gave a sneak-peak into what the city’s parks will look like in the future. An expanded Grand River corridor, a more integrated trail system, and an increase in accessible neighborhood parks are part of the vision that the Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department sees as the city continues to expand and develop.
The five year strategic plan unveiling shed a little light on what the Department hopes to see Grand Rapids parks look like in the next five years. Parks and Rec director David Marquardt says much of the plan came from the public’s input, and a common theme was to celebrate Grand Rapids natural beauty.
“The most exciting thing about this plan is the fact that it’s built off of thousands of community voices. It’s those voices those stories that have really shaped this plan and the recommendations that are coming out of it," Marquardt said. "And what we have been hearing loud and clear is that there is a justification and a reason for focusing on Grand Rapids distinct ecology. And so that ecology that we live in here in Grand Rapids is really what is coming forward and shaping these plan recommendations and the frame work around which all of these recommendations start taking place.”
One vision for Grand Rapids parks in the future came from Mayor Roslynn Bliss. In her state of the city speech when she took office last year, Mayor Bliss called for parks to become learning labs for the city’s youth.
“Grand Rapids parks in the future won’t just be as the parks as we know them today, or the park’s we’ve known in the past," Marquardt said. "And so what we mean, what we take that to mean as part of this planning effort, is building again off that ecology that distinct ecology that we live in here in Grand Rapids, and using that as a tool that we not only form the different amenities within our parks but use those as ways that we can bring in different educators to our parks system, and begin to teach children about that distinct ecology in which we do live.”
Officials said that research shows 33% of residents in Grand Rapids do not have a park within a 10 walk from their home, a problem project manager Karie Enriquiz says the Strategic plan hopes to address.
“It doesn’t matter if you live in a huge home or a little home, if you have a single parent or have both parents its someplace where you can go its someplace where everyone can have the exact same access to amenities regardless of where they are in life," she said.
The final draft of the plan will be available to the public on January 20th. The department will present the five year plan to the state of Michigan this March.