Outdoor classroom, playscape at Plaster Creek Park nearing completion

Published on September 17, 2019

City, GRPS, partner representatives and Burton Elementary students gather for the Plaster Creek Family Park sneak preview

City and GRPS provide progress update of The Nest and The Meadows, which is slated for completion in spring 2020

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Leaders from the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) today provided a project update and sneak preview of the green schoolyard at Burton Elementary/Middle School and Plaster Creek Family Park.

“The outdoors and public parks offer many opportunities for hands-on learning and connecting children with nature,” Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said. “Projects such as these help us increase access to parks throughout our city. We are grateful for support from the Children & Nature Network, Wege Foundation and other partners for making this project a reality.”

Students from Burton Elementary School explored the nearly completed Meadows playscape area during the preview event.

"We are leveraging public and private funds – parks millage, Wege Foundation, Children & Nature Network grant funds and GRPS resources – to activate parkland and schoolyards for the benefit of children, parents, families, neighbors and teaching and learning,” said Kristian Grant, president of the Grand Rapids Board of Education.

City Manager Mark Washington, Burton Elementary Principal Allison Woodside de Carrillo, Burton Middle Principal Michael Perez and National Children & Nature Network Director of Green Schoolyards for Health Communities Jamie Zaplatosch also spoke during the event. The Children & Nature Network partnered with National League of Cities to provide a grant for the project.

The City and GRPS broke ground on the outdoor classroom and natural playscape at Plaster Creek Family Park in June. Students at Burton Elementary/Middle School helped to create plans for The Nest and The Meadows, which will transform areas of the park with new nature and learning experiences. The Nest will be an outdoor classroom overlooking the park near Burton School. The Meadows will feature a stump forest, log jam and other play features made from local trees harvested and stored by the City’s Forestry Division. It also will include a rain garden, native meadow planting and community picnic area. Other features of the project include accessible pathways, athletic field improvements and green infrastructure improvements.

“We are thrilled about the progress we’ve made on this project and we look forward to seeing students, families, neighbors and the community use it,” said David Marquardt, the City’s parks and recreation director. “The Nest and The Meadows will offer a unique opportunity for students to immerse in nature and bring learning to life in a new way.”

Project partners include Our Community’s Children, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Wege Foundation and GMB Architecture. The project is funded through a $317,500 grant from the Wege Foundation, $600,000 from the City’s 2013 parks millage and $100,000 from the City’s Environmental Services Department. Grand Rapids also was among seven U.S. cities to receive a $25,000 planning grant from National League of Cities.

Burton School is one of four sites in park-deficient areas of the city that will benefit from green schoolyard projects over the next three years. The benefits of green schoolyards go well beyond serving students. The spaces provide countless benefits to the health and wellness of the community and environment. 

The Grand Rapids City Commission has approved a parks millage renewal and increased investment for the Nov. 5 ballot. If approved by voters, the parks proposal would:

  • Provide stable funding to keep City parks and playgrounds maintained, updated and safe
  • Keep all City pools and splash pads open every summer and resourced with staff and supplies to keep them safe and clean
  • Continue capital improvements and rehabilitation for the City’s 74 neighborhood and community parks
  • Support additional free recreational programming for children in Grand Rapids, giving them more opportunities to connect with community, nature, play and friends
  • Leverage outside grants and funding for capital improvement projects

The proposed rate of 1.25 mills would permanently replace the current millage when it expires. It would cost the average homeowner an estimated $68.75 per year, or about $5.73 per month. That’s $1.38 per month more than the average homeowner pays today.

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