The Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department unveiled concept plans in December for eight neighborhood parks.
Although most of the improvements will take place over the next decade, a handful of the projects will occur in 2015.
Connie Bohatch, managing director of community services for the parks department, said the concept plans include three phases: priority projects, opportunity areas and long-term opportunities. Priority projects are slated to take place in 2015.
The parks in line to receive improvements are Cherry, Fuller, Garfield, Highland, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Westown Commons and Wilcox.
The improvements are a result of a seven-year parks millage that was passed in 2013 and went into effect in 2014.
“With that millage, there is roughly $4 million a year that is dedicated to parks,” said Steve Faber, executive director of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. “About half of that was earmarked toward repairs and restoration work, 15 to 20 percent was directed toward operating the three main pools for an extended season, and the remainder was for new capital improvement projects.”
Additionally, the city of Grand Rapids is committed to providing approximately $4.5 million in funding annually for the duration of the millage; that money will be used primarily for maintenance and programming needs at the parks.
The priority projects the parks department plans to tackle this year are focused on outdated water features. Faber said all but one of the eight parks has an outdated water feature that needs to be removed.
“All the parks on the list, save Roosevelt, have either a wading pool that has been closed for several years, or a pool that was no longer functioning and wouldn’t be functioning,” he said. “The goal in the first year was to focus on those parks.”
Faber said restoring the wading pools and swimming pools is out of the question both financially and from a safety standpoint, so they will all be removed.
“The goal for those neighborhoods that still want a water resource — a splash pad or that sort of water playground resource — would be replacing it,” he said.
Three municipal pools have remained in operation and will continue to be available for kids in the summer.
“Part of the millage that was approved was to help with the operating funds to keep those pools going (at) Richmond, Briggs and Martin Luther King,” Faber said.
The concept plans will become part of the next master plan the city is required to submit to the state in 2016 for its parks.
“It’s required by the state if you are going to request any kind of state funding for grants, acquisitions or anything like that,” Faber said. “The goal, though, has been to use that master planning process to ensure that we, as a community, have aligned our vision and priorities.”
Faber said the master plan and the regularity of funding would help the city prioritize repairs and capital improvements.
“There are repair funds for basketball courts and water fountains, and we wanted to be sure the city wasn’t repairing something the neighborhood no longer wanted,” Faber said.
The city developed each concept plan in conjunction with members of the neighborhood.
A Neighborhood Planning Team was established for each park. The planning teams were responsible for providing initialinput, leading the community-wide design workshops and getting neighbors involved in the process.
The workshops were held in October and November. In addition to the Neighborhood Planning Teams, two local design firms and the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks were involved in the workshop process. A total of 323 people participated in the workshops and 75 people participated in Neighborhood Planning Team meetings.
The hope now is the millage money combined with the concept plans will help draw private funding to bring the concept plans to reality for the parks.
“What this does is allows us to say, ‘Here are the public resources coming toward these parks’ and give more clarity to how private resources can support them,” Faber said. “In several cases we are already seeing where there is some opportunity for philanthropy and additional neighborhood funding.”