You’re probably familiar with Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation, but there’s a nonprofit that’s making strides in keeping our parks in ship shape. Stacy Bare is the Executive Director of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, an organization driven to support the city’s green spaces by planting trees, helping with cleanup, managing invasive species and creating easy access to parks.
“There’s about 1,600 acres of park land, and about 600 of that we would consider a forest,” Bare said. “A lot of that is being challenged right now by invasive species which are outcompeting the existing species that are there, so one of our big goals is 600 aces of habitat restoration. Another part of our work is around tree planting. A lot of our work around trees is really focused on community outreach and community engagement. We’re also working on increasing access to our parks through the creation of natural surface trails,” he said. “The goal would be that everybody would be no more than ten blocks away from a natural service trail.”
It’s easy – and free – to enjoy the dozens of parks across Grand Rapids, even as snow blankets them in white. If you’re game for outdoor activities, there’s plenty to choose from.
“Indian Trails, which is a golf course during the summer, as a municipal park does a lot when the snow is there for grooming fat-bike trails and cross-country skiing,” Bare said. “GR Outside, which is run through the Parks and Rec department, has a big gear library at Roosevelt Park, but they do free rentals of fat bikes, snowshoes and cross-country skis, both at the Roosevelt Park location as well as out of Indian Trails. You can go out there and that’s free to use.”
Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is always looking for folks volunteer their time or offer monetary support, but there’s one thing Bare made clear.
“The number one thing that people can do to support Friends of Grand Rapids parks is to get out and explore and use their parks,” he said. “We just we want to see people outside taking a walk, having a picnic, being out in the winter, exploring the parks.”
Visit the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks website to see how you can get involved.