250 Burton Street SE (between Madison and Jefferson) 30 acres
Garfield Park is located at 250 Burton St SE (between Madison and Jefferson). It is one of the city’s larger parks consisting of 36 acres including the adjacent Burton Woods, a wooded nature preserve of 6 acres on the SW side of Garfield.
These parks provide an amazing green space in SE Grand Rapids and they have an even more amazing history.
The park was established in 1906 with the donation of 25 acres from their family farm by Charles W. Garfield and his cousin, Julia Fletcher. Charles Garfield was a prominent citizen of GR who “did more than any person to shape the course of the physical city over a 40 year span from 1894 to 1934”(from Keep on the Grass, by the Grand Rapids Historical Comm.). In addition to being a farmer, banker, and legislator, he also founded the Michigan Forestry Commission, lobbying for the early reforestation of Michigan, after logging had destroyed much of Michigan’s native woodland. A commemorative marker at the base of a sycamore tree that he planted in Garfield Park, reads: Memory Tree, Chas. W. Garfield, Useful Citizen, Lover of Trees. Although the influence of this “Useful Citizen” looms large in the history of our state and city, it is said that his modesty and love of nature stood out as the most important part of his legacy.
Today the park boasts large open areas with many mature trees and playing fields for all types of sports, including an 18 “hole” disc golf course. The park has a Kaboom playground, found in many of the city parks and picnic spaces with shelters. In 1953, 2 swimming pools, a wading pool and gymnasium were added. The pools closed in 2010 but there is an effort underway to bring a new splash pad to the park. The gymnasium is now used as a community center.
The 6 acre Burton Woods, adds a lovely natural area for walking, frequented by many local dog owners exercising their canine pals.
For more information on Charles Garfield and photos, check out the free web-accessible publication, Forest History Today, Fall 2017 edition, at foresthistory.org.
#16 Briggs Park 324 Knapp Avenue NE (at Oakwood NE) 6.55 Acres
After being closed during last summer (2020) due to the Covid pandemic, the 3 City swimming pools will be once again open for business this summer- 2021! This includes Briggs Park pool on the NE side!
The swimming pool is the dominant feature of Briggs Park and is a really neat facility. The pool depth ranges from the 2’4″ shallow end to the 12′ deep end with a diving board. A giant waterslide, concession stand, accessible handicap lift, restroom/locker room and picnic tables are all part of this turquoise blue oasis of summer fun. We walked along the outside of the fence this cool May Day, admiring the structure and visualizing a hot July day with dozens of kids, splashing, making noise and enjoying the “dog days” of summer. It took some conjuring as we were in our down coats, trees still in bud and the swimming pool was empty!
Another Kaboom park (we are beginning to recognize them now, distinctive bright colors and innovative structures). Also look for a basketball court, tennis courts and picnic shelter. Free public wifi!
Below, natural materials used in playground structure of a Kaboom Playground
Aberdeen Park is a great park with all the expected amenities of playground, picnic shelter, bathrooms, splash pad, tennis courts and baseball diamond. It also boosts large open areas with beautiful old trees, some walkways and parking off Diamond Ave.
When visiting today, there were a few families cooking Mother’s Day dinners on a couple of the many grills available while the kids amused themselves on the Kaboom sponsored modern playground equipment. (Look for Kaboom parks throughout the city- their colorful innovative playgrounds are a real treat).
One interesting finding was in the park was an apple and pear orchard, planted in 2011 by community volunteers with the Creston Neighborhood Association. Sign says harvest is available to anyone.
The park is adjacent to the large play field of Aberdeen elementary and middle school to the North East and playground and parking lot of All Saints Academy (Catholic early elementary school) on the East. These 3 contiguous areas give the feeling of a wide-open space in the center of the busy NE residential area just east of Plainfield avenue. Very peaceful!
6 tennis courts available with mini bleachers facing the action!