January 18, 2021 Park #9 1115 Caulfield Ave. SW .32 Acres
Yes, the best part of Caulfield park is its location, nestled between two streets and two houses, it’s super convenient for families living in the neighborhood. In the morning, or after dinner, grab your coffee, grab your kids, and go sit on a park bench, and watch them go up and down the slides and swings and jungle gym, while you chat with neighbors. You can stay after sundown as there is good lighting on the play structures. Primarily for younger children (sign says 2-12), Caulfield Park is mainly a playground, but what a playground!
Caulfield Park dates back to 1984, but it was renovated June 28, 2019 with support from Amway and KaBoom (a national non-profit working to bring neighborhood parks to kids). The new playground was installed in 6 hours by 200 volunteers, including Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and Amway employees. To say the least-we were impressed! Every neighborhood needs a “Caulfield.
This week, Scott and I decided to visit a group of parks on the SW side of the city. We got acquainted with this area when canvassing for the census this fall. In one afternoon we visited Roosevelt, Kensington, and Caulfield Parks.
Kensington Park sits on the south edge of an interesting residential area, the Black Hills, which is separated from the Grandville corridor on the east by Godfrey Ave. and surrounded on the east and south by industrial complexes and the west and north by railroad tracks. This makes a little oasis of a neighborhood that truly benefits from a neighborhood park. The park consists of the southern wooded slope of the Black Hills and a flat area at the base of the hill, giving it 8 acres.
The park is a recipient of the park millage of 2013, as it has new playground equipment and a renovation of soccer fields. Looks like the work is progressing but waiting for some warmer weather for mulching and more cement work. It was surprising to find there was no parking lot available. Street parking is available on Dorchester near the playground and the park is accessible from the Blackhills neighborhood by the paths leading down the hill.
I am curious as to the origins and configuration of the Black Hills area and the history of this park, which dates back to 1909. If anyone has information on this, I’d love to hear more. Elizabeth
January 18, 2021 Park #7 739 Van Raalte Dr. SW (Van Raalte at Grandville Ave. SW)
Roosevelt Park was a pleasant surprise to visit in the depths of winter. We came on a sunless afternoon when the trees were bare and there was snow on the ground not knowing what to expect. But-I had a special interest in this park because it was a big part of my mother’s life as a child. She was born in 1916 and grew up on lower Grandville Ave., in the heart of the Dutch community. Every summer she and her sister would spent the day in Roosevelt Park where the Park Director, a Mr. Van Os, ran a summer program for the neighborhood children. From my mother’s autobiography: “there was a little shack where you could make your mother a vase from a pickle jar and glue and wallpaper or anything else with pieces of wood or beads….The playground director also organized ball teams for the older kids and oversaw the younger ones so no one was hurt”. From the GR Historical Commission book, Keep on the Grass, “In 1912 Charles Mills came from Hull House in Chicago to develop and to oversee the playground programs. Under his direction each city park and playground had its own supervisor and offered children’s activities from 10 AM to 5 PM six days a week during summer months.” This was such a wonderful experience for my mother and her younger sister, as my grandmother worked all day in a factory and the girls would have been on their own at ages 8 and 11.
As we explored Roosevelt Park, I tried to imagine what the park meant to the neighborhood in 1927. The impetus for building the park came from the local businessmen in 1923. They argued that there were 1000 children living in the area without a place to play, and so the city purchased 7 acres for the park. It is much changed now, I imagine. The shack is gone now replaced by the large Roosevelt Park Lodge, which doesn’t appear to be in use much. The park has been updated thanks to the millage for parks passed in 2013.
Available at the the park, (some features more in the summer) are a .2mile paved walking path with several equipped exercise stations, (5 laps to a mile!), a splash pad, new playground equipment, a field for soccer, picnic tables, murals by local young artists, and a rain garden. At 7.27 acres, Roosevelt Park gives a lot of space to run and be outdoors. I’d love to re-visit this park in the summer to see the action! Thank you to the citizens of Grand Rapids who voted to give this park a face-lift! Well done!
Park #6 Wilcox Park 100 Youell SE, Grand Rapids 49508
Wilcox Park is my neighborhood park-the closest city park to my back door. It is the city park I visit the most, often 1-2 times a week . For me, it is a short 1.2 mile hike, taking in the delight of the leafy Marywood campus and the Aquinas campus along the way. Wilcox Park is bordered by Aquinas College on the east side, and separated by a fence and Coldbrook creek (which flows from Fisk Lake). From my house and then through the college campus north to south and around the perimeter of the park (south and west borders) and back to home, I can knock off 6400 steps in an hour for a distance of 2.4 miles. That’s a pretty good workout for me and a nice encounter with nature.
On a recent walk after our last snow, it was great to see kids and parents sliding down a hill off Youell Ave. and into the “bowl” in the middle of the southern part of the park. The copse of firs in the center of the “bowl” was sometimes an obstacle but no serious collisions.
Last fall we noticed the addition of a hammock grove, groups of 4x4s anchored in the ground with hooks for hanging hammocks (a popular thing to do in this park for the last several years). Previously people were using trees for suspending their hammocks. Each pole is decorated with different designs and in themselves, an interesting art form (also utilitarian). The project is memorial to a young man who passed away in 2017 at the tender age of 21. His poetry appears on 2 plaques in the hammock grove.
Wilcox Park encompasses 12.68 acres. It was established in 1910 on land which was formerly a gravel pit- the gravel used to build a toll road from Grand Rapids to Reeds Lake. Amenities today include: basketball and tennis courts, a ball diamond, a fenced playground and splash pad, small picnic shelter with bathrooms, and plenty of room to walk your dog, hang your hammock or lie on a blanket in the sun for an afternoon rest. It’s great to have this park so near to my house!
Park #5 Richmond Park, 1101 Richmond NW, Grand Rapids, 49504
If you are at all familiar with Richmond, you are probably picturing a sledding hill and ice skating pond. And in the summer add the generous swimming pool, now updated with water slides and splash pad. Richmond is all about recreation-also playground and a newly added concrete walkway around the duck pond (aka skating pond). But there is more to this park!
The park is bordered on the west side by a high bluff running from the sledding hill to north. From the top of that bluff looking east is a great view of the city.
This is a wooded natural area crisscrossed by sandy trails. Now the easy way to get there is to drive up Richmond Ave. to the back of the park, turn north on Garfield Ave and park on the side of the road. We learned the hard way, scaling a sand dune of a trail, almost straight up, leaning into the hill to prevent from falling backwards, (ok maybe a little exaggerated) but the climb was 177 feet on the Garmin. The effort was worth it, but maybe not for everyone.
This park was well used mid week when we visited, with moms and kids on the playground, walkers and some people there just to feed the sea gulls, ducks, and Canadian geese hanging out around the pond. (Watch your step!)
Check out Richmond Park, any season and you will find something interesting! Happy Trails!