Belknap Bluff Revitalization Continues
In September 2019 high winds as high as 100 MPH were responsible for extensive damage to the Belknap Bluff. Several Months later, efforts to clean up, remodel, and rebuild continue.
The Belknap Bluff is walking distance to Downtown Grand Rapids, Medical Mile and is part of the ongoing Grand Rapids revitalization. In 1980’s the neighborhood began to suffer the effects of drug-related criminal activity and since then there has been a lot of effort to keep the parks safe.
Speaking with Karie M. Enriquez, Project Manager in the Department of Parks and Recreation. “We are installing lots of lighting in an effort to keep the parks safe”. “The improvements being made to the parks are new sidewalks, driveways, electrical, bike paths, benches, and tables.” In 2013, Grand Rapids voters approved a property tax to support $5.7 Million in park improvements. This seven-year tax was designed to address a backlog of much-needed park repairs and to fund new investments in parks. Karie Enriquez, states “since the start of the 2013 Millage we will have made improvements in over 50 parks (as of this summer). While the 2013 millage will come to an end in the next year, the voters of Grand Rapids approved a new permanent millage (in November 2019) which will replace the existing seven-year one. The Parks Department is extremely excited to be able to build upon the success of the previous millage and continue our important work with the community”.
The Belknap Park sits on 33 acres which has more park land than any other neighborhoods in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, in part because of the baseball field, tennis courts, sledding hills, softball fields.
The Lookout Park has expansive green space, with views of the city skyline and the Grand River.
Reservoir Park is the upper section of Belknap Park, but often referred to as Lookout Park. Reservoir name orginates from being city’s first reservoir in (1874), Belknap Park was renamed in 1932 to honor Civil War veteran Captain Charles Belknap. The park was further developed as part of a WPA project in the 1930?s and in the early 1960?s. Approximately 2 million cubic yards of earth were removed from the park and used for freeway construction through downtown. In the 1970?s Grand Rapids Project X, an earthwork sculpture created by artist Robert Morris, was cut into the hillside.
Dan Rochon, a resident who lives on Fairview next to the park shared his opinion.
“I am very impressed with all the improvements at the two parks! Living adjacent to Belknap Lookout I have noticed that many people are loving the new improvements as well. I have noticed over the past couple years that the overall visits to both parks have steadily increased over previous years visits and I think these improvements will draw much more to these parks.
The three most noticeable and impressive renovations are:
LED Lighting - I love the improved Lighting lining the walkways. It is probably twice as bright as it was previously. It does illuminate my back yard a bit more but it is nothing I consider intrusive. Many visitors to the park come during the evening/dark hours. It feels like a much safer place to visit, more inviting during the evening hours to check out the skyline of the city. The View - I have always know that the view from this park be so much more impressive and thought for a long time that it was such a waist of real-estate to have this prime park property location with a view that was obstructed by all the overgrowth at the top of the hill. You would actually walk up to the edge of the hill and stare at weeds that grew 10' tall. I have noticed over the past 20 years a steady decline in attendance at the park for downtown firework shows as the view became more and more obstructed over time. The majority of the top part of hill has cleared and the view of the city has now been improved 1,000%! The Two New Swings - This has never been a playground park and still remains that way but the addition of two adult bench swings is nothing I have seen at any other park and almost ever visitor I watch takes a moment to sit a swing just for a bit. It is such a little thing but enjoyed by young and old alike. There has never been any real landscaping elements at this park and now we have stone walls to the path as it rounds the north end of the walking path, we now have built in picnic tables along the middle pathway to the top of the hill and the two, old and rundown stairs into the park have been removed. "
"I had voted for the park improvement millage a few years ago and was so happy to see that this seemingly forgotten park was now made the gem at the top of the hill that it once was. After seeing all the improvements made to Lookout Park and at a few other parks in the city I feel that it is money well spent for all to enjoy. "
"Quite a few years ago I was going through some of my great uncle's photos and saw a picture of Belknap Lookout Park from the early 1900's. My great uncle attended the St. Joseph seminary in Grand Rapids when he was a young man and the picture reflected an outing they had to the park. The one thing that stood out to me more than anything was all the people that were at the park that day (probably 1920's, so probably about 100 years ago). I have walked that park many times thinking about it's history and the millions of people that have visited over its 100 plus year history, I am so happy this park received its long overdue renovation. I hope now that all these improvements will be maintained for the next 100 years for the millions more to view the city.”
The Belknap, The Reservoir, and Lookout Park just finished renovations.
If you haven’t been up to lookout park yet, I highly suggest checking out the newly renovated parks.