Grand Rapids celebrates reopening of Ken-O-Sha Park

Park improvements include a new natural playscape using recycled fallen trees, an outdoor classroom, new green infrastructure and daylighted stormwater. Courtesy city of Grand Rapids

The city of Grand Rapids recently celebrated the grand reopening of Ken-O-Sha Park.

Improvements showcased last week include a new natural playscape using recycled fallen trees, an outdoor classroom, new green infrastructure and daylighted stormwater, a nature amplifier along Plaster Creek, a screened portable restroom at the Plaster Creek Trail trailhead, new accessible pathways, and educational and wayfinding signage.

The cost of improvements at Ken-O-Sha Park — located behind Ken-O-Sha Elementary at 1353 Van Auken St. SE — totaled $586,200. The 2013 voter-approved parks millage provided $436,200 of the funding, a Great Urban Parks grant from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) provided $124,000 and the remaining $26,000 was provided through the Target Corporation in partnership with NRPA and the Connecting Communities to Outdoor Play initiative.

“Park and recreation professionals, who serve nearly every community in the United States, are essential in building more resilient and sustainable communities, which includes addressing and supporting the important role of green infrastructure solutions,” said Ayanna Williams, NRPA’s director of community and environmental resilience.

“Utilizing parks to mitigate flooding and other climate-related weather impacts is a critical strategy in protecting neighborhoods. We know from our past work that these projects also offer a multitude of benefits beyond environmental stewardship, including improved community health, park access and social cohesion. We’re looking forward to seeing those impacts encourage the next generation of environmental stewards.”

Grand Rapids was one of 10 organizations awarded the Great Urban Parks grant, which supports the development of green stormwater infrastructure. The grant also supported Green Stewards youth employment at Ken-O-Sha Park and Plaster Creek Trail in 2019.

“The improvements at Ken-O-Sha Park are a perfect example of combining play, education and environmental sustainability,” said David Marquardt, the city’s parks and recreation director. “We’re grateful to our funding partners that allowed us to leverage tax dollars to invest even further in this important community space.”

The Connecting Communities to Outdoor Play initiative supports the combined goal to increase access to play and physical activity for kids and families through built environment enhancements.

The Ken-O-Sha Park project team includes VIRIDIS Design Group and Pride Builders Group. Grand Rapids Public Schools and Plaster Creek Stewards also are community partners.

“The natural playscape and outdoor classroom will provide new, unique educational opportunities for families, students and teachers,” said Jen Schottke, president of the Grand Rapids Board of Education.

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