GR to hone green space policy as redevelopment surges

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

The need for an in-depth investigation of green space needs and use has come to the fore as the City of Grand Rapids embarks on its requisite five-year review of the Master Plan. When the Master Plan was adopted in 2002, the importance of green space in the city was discussed, but no specific public policy was outlined. That’s about to change.

Several events prompted the need to balance parks, bike and pedestrian trails, and other green spaces with the surge of citywide urban development. They include:

  • The sale of public schools properties historically counted as public parks inventory.
  • Heightened pressure to sell property assets to meet current budget shortfalls.
  • A declining number of vacant parcels.
  • Economic benefit of quality of life issues for the attraction and retention of a talented workforce.
  • Recommendations from the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Parks and Recreation.
  • Recent City Commission decisions regarding Garfield Park, Indian Trails Golf Course, and 201 Market.
  • Citizen discourse over public policy decisions concerning parks and green space.

Mayor George Heartwell will appoint a committee, to begin in October, to consider green space usage and a bike/pedestrian trail plan developed a couple of years ago, among other things. Community forums and design charrettes begin in January. The process will take about 18 months.

“The project is only going to be as good as the public input we receive,” says Suzanne Schulz, planning director. “Are there areas where we’re severely deficient in green space compared to what residents want? Do we need to buy more green space, or should we dispose of anything? I don’t know the answers to those questions.”

Source: Suzanne Schulz, City of Grand Rapids Planning Department

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth. She can be contacted at [email protected].