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PARKS, PLAYGROUNDS AND BOULEVARDS.
Grand Rapids has all but achieved its ambition to have a park or playground within ten minutes walk of every home. It owns 902 acres of park and boulevard lands in or contiguous to the city. Of the parks 337 acres are improved and 165 acres are in process of improvement. Of nine miles of boulevard property more than half are in use.
The largest park is John Ball, on the west side, now consisting of 137 acres, of which 40 acres were bequeathed to the city by John Ball, pioneer, in 1869. His widow's interest was acquired 1884. Seven acres were deeded to the city in 1906 by Julia A. Richards, the remainder of the land being acquired by purchase. In 1925 a monument to John Ball was erected in this park.
The Garfield-Fletcher playground, 25 acres at Madison avenue and Burton street, was donated to the city in 1906 by Charles W. and Jessie S. Garfield and Julia L. Fletcher. Later Mr. and Mrs. Garfield donated to the city eight lots adjoining.
Comstock Riverside park, comprising 40 acres along the east bank of the river south of the Soldier's Home, was donated to the city by Mrs. Clara Russell and Mrs. Etta M. Boltwood. Fifty acres on the east were purchased in 1917, for $10,458.
Other gifts of lands to be used for park and playground purposes include:
Antoine Campau park, by Martin A. Ryerson.
Crescent park (north half), by T. H. Cuming and G. K. Johnson.
Lincoln place, by Canton Smith.
Foster park, by Canton Smith.
Coit park, by C. W. Coit Estate.
Mary Waters Field, by Dudley E. and Florence Hill Waters.
Baldwin park, by Susan N. Baldwin.
Franklin Street park, (six lots), by Eliza S. McConnell Butler.
Julius Houseman Field, by Hattie Houseman Amberg.
Wilcox park, $10,000 was donated by Frederick P. Wilcox toward the purchase of park land in the east part of the city and was expended on this park.
Rumsey park (18 lots), by George A. Rumsey, James L. Rumsey, Ellen M. Wyman and Martha R. Simonds.
Hillsdale park (lots), by Thomas M. Peck and Rebecca L. Richmond.
North Avenue playgrounds, by C. W. Coit Estate.
Highland park (3.5 acres), by Alpheus and Melville R. Bissell and Benjamin A. Harlan.
June 23, 1926, Jacob Aman deeded to the Grand Rapids Park and Boulevard association 264 acres of land on the north side of West Bridge road about eight miles from Campau square. In September this land was transferred to the city, to be used for park and recreation purposes.
The Aman tract is about three-fourths wooded and one-fourth cleared. Sand creek meanders through it, for almost a mile of water flow. In the woods are pine, spruce, tamarack, hemlock, cedar, oak, maple, elm, basswood, sycamore and other species of trees. At places the land is 125 feet above Sand creek, on which in olden days there were seven sawmills. A lake of four or five acres is surrounded by huckleberry and cranberry marshes. The land is adaptable for practically all types of recreation. Mr. Aman has lived on this place for 27 years.
June 12, 1924, Charles R. Sligh gave the city the use for ten years of 71 acres between Plainfield and Coit avenues, south of the Soldier's Home. On this an 18-hole municipal golf course was laid out, play beginning in 1926. For three years a nine-hole golf course has been in use in John Ball park. The city is now developing an 18-hole golf course on 89 of the 289 acres it has acquired for cemetery purposes on both sides of Kalamazoo avenue between Alger and Laraway. This course will be known as Indian Trails. It is to be north of Laraway and east of Kalamazoo.
Grand Rapids is developing plans for a boulevard along Plaster creek, from Kalamazoo avenue to Grand River just west of Rathbun avenue, connecting there with the Grand River boulevard. To date 168 acres have been acquired for this purpose.
A metropolitan system of large parks connected by boulevards throughout the area now outside the limits but contiguous to the city is being developed, providing for future annexations. An organization of business men, the Park and Boulevard association, has aided in developing the system of boulevards.
The story of how the city acquired all the parks and playgrounds is not attempted here. The municipality conducts 17 supervised playgrounds and eleven guarded swimming pools during the summer. Swimming is taught in all public pools, to persons of all ages.
Transcriber: Ronnie Aungst
Created: 10 December 1999