A Sweet Place for a Park
By Gabe Savercool
The Sweet Street Park was built in 1972 as part of the expansion of Creston High School in the 1970s. By the mid 2000s, the park was in disrepair, as the playground equipment had not been improved or upgraded in over 20 years. In 2006, Grand Rapids Public Schools–having already removed playgrounds at Beckwith and Lexington Elementaries–proposed removing the playground equipment and closing the park.
After seeing a GRPS notice about the pending removal of the Sweet Street Park, Julie Neitling, a Creston resident, notified Creston Neighborhood Association (CNA) about the issue. Unwilling to lose this valuable community asset, CNA decided to act. In the fall of 2006, CNA submitted the first of several grant proposals to KaBOOM!, a non-profit organization that partners with corporate sponsors and communities to build playgrounds. Most KaBOOM playgrounds are designed alongside community members and built in one day by local volunteers, which reduces overhead costs and means that these playgrounds are designed and built by those likely to use them.
As the proposed date for removal moved closer, CNA kicked its efforts into high gear. In February 2009, CNA submitted the final application for a KaBOOM! Project. In order to raise local awareness of the issue, CNA circulated a petition objecting to the proposed removal of outdated equipment at the park without a plan for a new playground.
The application was accepted by KaBOOM!, and the proposal accepted by the City Commission on May 26, 2009. The Sweet Street project was to be the 7th playground renovated through the Amway Corporation Partnership and the 4th KaBOOM! project in Grand Rapids. During the first week of July, the Grand Rapids School Board approved the transfer of the half-acre Sweet Street Park to the City of Grand Rapids.
On July 31st, a group of 25 parents, children, and other Creston neighbors met with representatives of KaBOOM! and Amway Corporation in the Plainfield United Methodist Church (now New City Church) to design the plans for the new playground. The Sweet St. Park was built on Sept. 25 2009 by over 200 volunteers, including local families, CNA staff, and members of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. In the years following, CNA won additional KaBOOM! applications for Briggs Park and Aberdeen Park.
Thanks to the efforts of CNA and its friends, Sweet Street Park was restored to a lovely place for children to play and community to gather. Currently, Sweet Street Park includes basketball courts, a hopscotch area, picnic tables, an accessible play system, several benches, and full shade provided by large oak trees. As lovers of the park already know, it is also an excellent place to watch the sunset.