Text: Kyle Gandy
The Grand Rapids Department of Parks and Recreation, located at 201 Market Ave. SW, is a perennial division of city government responsible for the myriad of parks meticulously woven into the urban metropolis of the city. Their latest project is a $250,000 reconstruction and modernization of Coit Park, which is tucked away in the northeastern region of the city neighboring the Medical Mile and the Belknap lookout.
This particular project is a part of a comprehensive revitalization strategy, which began in 2013 following a park agreement that was passed to bring $28 million to all 74 parks in the city. Coit Park’s upgrades comprise an improved playground, four-square court, shuffleboard, fruit trees, community gathering space, picnic area, and pollinator garden.
“How we began the project was by consulting our maintenance staff and the neighborhood,” said Karie Enriquez, project manager for the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Coit Park is unique in its seldom solitude within a semi-isolated neighborhood with limited entry points. The park’s improvements were heavily influenced by the residents.
“What we typically do when we improve our parks is we send postcards—examine the map, see where the park is, and draw an area around the park where people are within walking distance,” Enriquez said. “We usually send them out to around 800 homes letting them know we’re doing improvements, and we want to know their opinions.”
This is then followed up by two design meetings, usually about a month apart, where the parks department and the residents can collaborate on their vision. The first meeting addresses what is liked and disliked, what new additions are wanted, and what should be scrapped, among other topics. The second meeting is more concise, narrowing in on the suggestions and providing a rough blue-print based off the demands of the residents.
The parks department then collaborated with O’Boyle, Cowell, Blalock, & Associates Inc., or OCBA, Landscape Architects, based out of Kalamazoo. OCBA has experience working in parks and recreation, and urban landscapes such as the Allegan Riverfront, Grand River Ravines County Park, the Louis Campau Promenade in downtown Grand Rapids, Millennium Park in Kent County, and many more.
“What is unique about Coit, is that it is one of the few playground structures that is ABA accessible—Architectural Barriers Act, in association with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA—which is wonderful, because it allows kids with limited mobility the opportunity to enjoy all of the pleasantries of the parks attractions. It’s important that we kept that component,” said Katie Chase, landscape designer at OCBA.
Planning and community input for Coit Park project improvements were completed in the summer of 2017 and construction is currently underway to remove a non-functional bathroom building, relocation of playground with additional play equipment, new community picnic and event area, drinking foundation, new trees and benches, a drinking fountain, landscaping, and other site amenities.
“Design, to me, is problem solving,” Chase said. “We listened to the complaints of the neighborhood and removing the bathrooms really opened up the park. On top of that, at other entry points, we made sure to include more fruit trees—apple, pear, and cherry—combined with pollinator gardens to make the park feel more serene. We also improved the retaining wall in the middle, near the play structures.”
Photo courtesy: Facebook.com | City of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation