Each month, City Parks Alliance names one “Frontline Park” as a standout example of urban park excellence, innovation and stewardship from across the country. The program identifies city parks that find innovative ways to meet the unique challenges faced as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures and urban neighborhood decay. In recognition of its unique approach to partnerships and green infrastructure, Joe Taylor Park in Grand Rapids, MI has been named a Frontline Park.
“The completion of Joe Taylor Park was a major milestone for our community and set the stage for us to have critical conversations about sustainable park design, equity and access, maintenance and funding, and partnership development,” said Steve Faber, Executive Director of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.
“We selected Joe Taylor Park as a Frontline Park because it exemplifies the power of urban parks to build community and make our cities sustainable and vibrant,” said Catherine Nagel, Executive Director, City Parks Alliance. “We hope that by shining the spotlight on Joe Taylor Park, we can raise awareness about the ways investment in our nation’s urban parks pays off.”
In 2004, the city of Grand Rapids demolished homes adjacent to the park to clear the way for an underground water management facility. Construction on the system, which aimed to separate storm water and sewer lines for better management and treatment of water, left a large open lot at street level. City officials, local nonprofits, and neighborhood residents seized the opportunity to double the size of Joe Taylor Park, and give it a state-of-the-art, sustainable makeover that would benefit the entire community.
The expansion includes a splashpad, new playground equipment, LED lighting, a future community garden site, a permeable concrete parking lot, and a system that irrigates the park’s vegetation using gray water from the sprayground. Thanks to the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and a gift from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, an endowment has been created to support future park maintenance. Aside from the obvious sustainability and recreational benefits, local police officers say that the park has helped to stabilize a portion of the neighborhood and reduced violent crime.
Joe Taylor Park will be featured on the City Parks Alliance website for the month of March.