Grand Rapids nonprofit organization protects parks, green spaces

By Amy McNeel | 7/9/18 11:52am

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GVL / Emily Frye Students walking on campus on Wednesday October 11, 2017.

From its art to its architecture, Grand Rapids is well known for its beauty and character. Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is one of the many area organizations that keeps the city looking vibrant and beautiful. 

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is a nonprofit organization focused on creating and maintaining beautiful and useable community spaces. 

“We are a nonprofit organization that is separate from the city's Parks and Recreation department,” said Stephanie Adams, Executive Director of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. “Our mission is really to empower people in our community to cultivate diverse parks and green spaces, public spaces and trees.” 

There are currently 74 parks in Grand Rapids and each one adds to the city’s charm. 

“We believe that great cities have great parks. We want to see our park system at the cutting edge; we’re very focused on sustainability, and people using them in creative and unique ways that also kind of fit into an urban lifestyle,” Adams said. “I think what's so special about the parks in our city is that they all have a reflection of the neighborhood that they reside in, whether it's through art or the amenities that are in there, they are all neighborhood driven.”

Being so community driven, the organization provides many volunteer opportunities. 

“We are always looking for people to give up their time, and I think what is unique about us is that we are a volunteer organization that the whole family can get involved in,” Adams said. “We have young children that come out to help us, they may be too young to work but they're never too young to volunteer.” 

There are opportunities for all people to help, from children to senior citizens and retirees to corporate groups. Those who volunteer can help the organization plant trees, pick up trash, rake leaves or participate in beautification projects. 

There are also many ways for people to help out the parks in day-to-day life. 

“We really want people to become stewards of the park in their own neighborhood, or if you maybe don't live in the city but work in the city of Grand Rapids, find out how your business could potentially adapt a park or adapt a flowerbed and just get involved and take care of it,” Adams said. “We're big believers that if you see trash you should pick it up. Yeah, there's definitely someone around the city that helps make the parks beautiful but we can all use a hand.”

Overall, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is a passionate organization dedicated to making the Grand Rapids community a better place for everybody. 

“I love that we are very hands on,” Adams said. “Not only do we do the organization, but we walk alongside our volunteers and do work with them, and we are a very passionate team that is very much driven by the work that we do. Everyone that comes to the organization has a background or a passion in empowering our community and really figuring out how we can get people invested into the spaces we get to play in all the time. 

“They are one of the last democratic spaces that we have to protest, to celebrate, to play, to really just come together as a community. Our park system has been around for a long time, and although we as humans constantly change, I think those spaces are always important to bring us back to our roots and connect us to nature.”

There are many ways to get involved with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. To learn more about the organization and volunteer opportunities, visit www.friendsofgrparks.org. 

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