Roberto Clemente Park wins social equity award

Published on October 27, 2022

Roberto Clemente Park Photo

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – VIRIDIS Design Group and the City’s Parks and Recreation Department have received an Award of Excellence for Social Equity for Roberto Clemente Park by the American Society of Landscape Architects, Michigan Chapter. (MiASLA). The Award of Excellence for Social Equity is the highest honor bestowed in the Michigan ASLA Design Awards Program and is given to projects that go above and beyond, tackling issues of social equity, diversity and inclusion. The park also was presented with a design honor award.

The judges selected the Roberto Clemente Park project for its purposeful, immersive and inclusive design, which includes bilingual educational signage, the city park system’s first gender-neutral restroom, daylighted stormwater management and accessible pathways.

“We worked closely with the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood and the community members surrounding the park to create a space that served the desires of the people who use it every day,” David Marquardt, the city’s parks and recreation director said. “We’re fortunate to have had VIRIDIS on our design team to bring the vision to life in such an impactful way.”

"It was a privilege to work with residents in the Roosevelt Park and Black Hills neighborhoods,” said Trevor Bosworth, principal landscape architect at VIRIDIS Design Group. “Our team is grateful to all those who invested their time, energy, and creativity in helping build a park that is reflective of the community’s values and responsive to the environment in a meaningful way."

The park, located at 546 Rumsey St. SW, underwent significant improvements in 2021 thanks to a $242,500 grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund, approximately $951,500 from the City’s 2013 parks millage, and $300,000 from the City’s Environmental Services Department. The resulting $1.5 million project transformed the park into a universally accessible space for community gathering, sustainability, sports, play and education.

Renovations at the park included:

  • New outdoor discovery area featuring a play area and seating to provide recreation and an outdoor classroom space for students. The play area offers universal access and was created using natural materials such as logs and boulders.
  • Universally accessible 6-foot-wide and 8-foot-wide concrete pathways to connect park amenities and new energy efficient lighting for safety.
  • New picnic shelter and all gender restroom building that meet universal design standards
  • New accessible path to soccer bleachers and new perimeter fencing at soccer field
  • New furnishings including bike racks, benches, picnic tables, domino tables, grills, drinking fountain and trash bins to enhance visitor experience.

In addition to these park upgrades, Roberto Clemente Park also received innovative daylighted stormwater infrastructure that will protect the Grand River and Lake Michigan. These upgrades included:

  • New green infrastructure including bioswales and rain gardens
  • Native meadow plantings that naturalize much of the passive areas, filter pollutants and help reduce stormwater runoff
  • Educational signage throughout the park that teach visitors about the impact of stormwater on the environment

Stacy Stout, the City’s director of equity & engagement, said the City embeds equity throughout all of its work through goals and objectives set in its Strategic Plan. She said this award is extra special given the life and legacy of social justice advocacy of the park’s namesake, Roberto Clemente.

“Clemente, in addition to being an accomplished athlete, spoke out against racism and Jim Crow segregation he experienced in the United States. Recently the Puerto Rican Cultural Committee of West Michigan held a community service project and celebration in the park that included education on how he lived, stood for justice, died a hero at age 38 when his plane overfilled with aid enroute to earthquake victims in Nicaragua crashed off the coast of Puerto Rico, and how and why people throughout the United States and Latin America continue to celebrate this beloved humanitarian.”

The project was supported by community groups and institutions that include Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Southwest Community Campus and Cesar Chavez Elementary, Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association, Disability Advocates of Kent County, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, and the Puerto Rican Cultural Committee of West Michigan.

The Roberto Clemente Park Project team included VIRIDIS Design Group, TSK Architects, and Katerberg VerHage, Inc. See more photos of the park HERE.

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