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Grand Rapids in 1856

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Parks and Playgrounds

Parks and Playgrounds

GRHC - May 5th, 2010

Glance at the Past shares the story of the Playground Association of Grand Rapids.



In May of 1908 Charles Zueblin, nationally known civic sociologist, spoke twice a day for seven days to Grand Rapids citizens about improving cities, transportation, parks, and recreation. His ideas sparked The More Beautiful City Committee, and from this committee grew the Playground Association of Grand Rapids, organized early in 1910 with Charles Garfield as its president. Its motto “A playground for every child, within one-half mile of its home,” helped the association achieve passage of a $200,000 bond issue for the purchase of land for playgrounds.  The following year the association lobbied and won city funding for supervised programs at the playgrounds. 

Under the direction of Garfield, Grand Rapids became a leader in the national playground movement that encouraged playground development and supervised play as a weapon in the fight against juvenile delinquency and as a means to improve the physical and mental health of children.

In 1912, under the direction of Charles H. Mills, each city park and playground offered children supervised activities from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. six days a week during the summer months. Between 1912 and the depression years of 1933-34, Grand Rapids developed one of the finest recreation programs in the country.

During the early years of the Depression, the Board of Education assumed operation of the playground program because Federal Emergency Relief funds were available only to educational agencies. This federal aid allowed the board to run the recreation programs and to maintain the parks and playgrounds. Each year all program participants gathered at John Ball Park in August for a field day to end the summer season. 

Full Details

TitleParks and Playgrounds
KeywordsGlance at the Past, history, park, playgrounds, playground association, Charles Zublin, Charles Garfield, WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission, Podcast
Pubdate StringMay 5th, 2010

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