Grand Rapids Parks, Pools and Playgrounds Proposal
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Policy Type Legend
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Outdoor Learning in Schools
Early Childhood Education
In 2013, voters in Grand Rapids, Michigan approved a seven-year property tax to support parks, pools, and playgrounds throughout the city. This millage was set to expire in 2020. In 2019, voters approved the Parks, Pools and Playgrounds Proposal, which helps to support adequate and continuous funding for parks, pools and playgrounds even after the current millage expires. Grand Rapid’s parks system is comprised of 74 parks and facilities across ~1,643 acres of land. In addition to those properties, the City maintains 58 basketball courts, 23 soccer fields, 32 playgrounds, 13.8 miles of multi-use paths, 13 splash pads and three swimming pools. This proposal is ensures that these properties receive a higher level of park maintenance and operations, as well as supports recreational programming for youth in Grand Rapids and leverages outside grants and funding for additional capital improvement projects.
Inspired by the the financial support of the proposal, the City of Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Public Schools partnered in 2019 to increase and improve their outdoor learning opportunities in the city. This collaboration has three elements: building outdoor learning spaces, creating a standards-aligned outdoor curriculum, and operating a “gear library” for students and community members to borrow from.
The city and the district collaborated to build an outdoor classroom and natural play area at a local park. The outdoor classroom will include seating, raised beds for a vegetable garden, a rain garden, natiive meadow planting, and a community picnic area. The play area will feature natural elements such as stumps and logs harvested by the city’s Forestry Division. It will also include accessible pathways, a picnic area with grills and tables, and improve current athletic and restroom facilities. Six fifth-grade students at the local elementary and middle schools helped to lead audits and surveys, as well as offering recommendations to the whole project team.
In addition to these capital improvement projects, the district hired an environmental education coordinator to build a standards-aligned outdoor curriculum for teachers to use in the new outdoor learning spaces.
The proposal has been unanimously approved by the Grand Rapids City Commission, and Grand Rapids voters passed the proposal with 70% of voter support. The Proposal’s millage would provide ~$5 million annually in ongoing funding. The new mill rate of 1.25 permanently replaces the 2013 millage (.98 mills) and will cost the average homeoner in Grand Rapids an estimated $68.75 per year, or about $5.73 per month.
The annual parks budget of $11.7 million would include approximately $5 million from the millage, along with additional general operating funds and resources leveraged through grants, fees and community partnerships.
Most Recent Yearly Funding
Continuing or One-time Funding
Property Tax increase
Path to Enactment