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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

Surviving Development Proposals

by Rebecca Smith Hoffman

Over the course of its long history, John Ball Park has been repeatedly threatened by development proposals.  In 1905, the city turned down the Calder-Quinn Gypsum Company’s offer of payment for the right to mine for gypsum under the park.  During the 1960s, various proposals to take John Ball park land that included the construction of subsidized housing, a school and a stadium were successfully opposed.  West Side residents fought long and hard in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the construction of US131 and I-196 through their neighborhoods which resulted in the loss of hundreds of buildings and a section of John Ball Park fell before the bulldozers.  In 1898, a Grand Rapids Press editorial described John Ball as “the park of the people, and the people throng there on Sundays and week days.  One does not go to John Ball park to spend money, but rather to breathe the fresh air of the hills, watch the fountains and drink in the beauties of nature.  The rich and the poor alike can enjoy all that there is to be enjoyed, and nothing is closed against either. . .”   More than one hundred years later that statement continues to be valid.  

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