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!
And put on a happy face!