I live in Creston?
Connecting Neighborhoods, Connecting Neighbors
By Gabe Savercool
The Creston Neighborhood Association (CNA) serves a neighborhood of over 27,000 residents, multiple business districts, more than 2 dozen churches, and almost 400 acres of parks. Historically, many of these residents attended neighborhood schools and graduated together from Creston High School. They voted in the same political district (2nd Ward) and fought for similar causes.
But today, many residents of our large neighborhood may ask, “Why am I in the Creston Neighborhood Association?” In fact, we could be called a “neighborhoods association,” as several unique neighborhoods and business districts exist inside our borders. Creston Heights, North Park, Cheshire Village and Riverside Gardens each boast unique housing types and street plans, owing in large part to the eras in which they were built and giving different sections of our large neighborhood very different feels.
The area now defined as “Creston” and served by CNA was once served by 3 separate organizations: CNA, North End Neighborhood Association (NENA) and North Park Neighborhood Association (NPNA). All three organizations shared the similar goals of bringing neighbors together, empowering them politically, and generally bettering their communities.
CNA began as a group of local neighbors wanting to make an impact in their neighborhood in the early 1970s. The group gathered momentum, volunteers, political legitimacy, and strong networks through their work surrounding Briggs Park and pool during the late 70s and 80s. The Creston Neighborhood Association always included Creston Heights and Riverside Gardens, with Leonard Street as its southern boundary and 3 Mile Road as its northern boundary.
The NPNA was founded in 1983 to “promote care and concern for the neighborhood” and to give the neighborhood a political voice. It covered the area north of CNA, bordered by 4 Mile Road, Plainfield Ave, 3 Mile Road, and the Grand River. During its time, the NPNA was successful in keeping 4 Mile Road a two lane street and saving part of the North Park Bridge, which is now preserved as a pedestrian footbridge located in Riverside Park.
The NENA originally covered the area between Plainfield on the west to Fuller on the east, with Knapp Street as its southern boundary and 3 Mile as its northern boundary. NENA was known for throwing a large annual celebration at Aberdeen Park. The event included fun family activities and live music performances. One year, Mr. McFeeley of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood visited the Aberdeen Celebration! Eventually, NENA absorbed NPNA, keeping the name North End Neighborhood Association.
Over the following years, local interest in the NENA began to fade. By the late 90s, it was run by volunteers on an ‘as-needed’ basis. The group continued to organize the Aberdeen Celebration into the early 2000s, but local public safety concerns began to be forwarded to CNA. In its last years, NENA president Ted Wohlford reported that he was only receiving a couple calls a year.
By that same time, CNA’s capacity had increased significantly, acting on large neighborhood projects including the Carrier Crest Apartments, Catherine’s Health Center, and the new credit union. CNA had city connections, their own office space at 205 Carrier St, and funding through Community Development Block Grants. In the spring of 2003, Mr. Wohlford proposed a merger of NPNA, NENA, and CNA at a CNA Board meeting. The issue was brought to a vote at the NENA annual membership meeting on September 30 of that year, passing unanimously, and was voted in at the CNA annual membership meeting on October 28th.
In spite of–or perhaps because of–its large size, CNA is a strong force for good in Grand Rapids. CNA remains dedicated to informing, connecting and empowering the community across our neighborhoods so that all neighbors can thrive. No matter what block you’re from, your voice will be heard at CNA.