The #ParkChallenge with Nate

The City of Grand Rapids manages 76 parks, and there are even more within city limits! With such a large number, one would think it unfathomable to visit them all nearly impossible to visit them all! Our friend and fellow park-lover Nate Rauh-Bieiri set out to do just that! Here are his thoughts having completed the #ParkChallenge.



“After running to and through GR’s 91 parks, here’s what I learned: better visit them yourself than listen to this dude!

For real though, this is the last #ParkChallenge post (do I hear some Amens?!). (Friends note: Check out Nate’s Instagram for more posts from his series)

This project was a way to begin to know the city and land better, learn more about parks, take care of my mental health, and just enjoy nature.

I hope it informed you in some way or, better, encouraged you to get to better know public lands near you.

You read past that first line, so uh-oh, here are a few of my parting impressions:

  1.  It feels good to know your nearby parks. Parks connect us to place and can be a pathway that moves us to notice ⇨ know ⇨ love ⇨ protect nature. (See link on the value of noticing)
  2. Parks do great things for us. So much so, that they often indicate the state of equity and well-being in a community. (See link for 10 reasons parks are amazing.)
  3. It does a lot to be able to reach parks on foot. That’s not possible in some cities or parts of a city, and that’s an issue. Parks ought to be accessible for everyone.
  4. Parks I’ve passed through—once, quickly—are daily lifelines for others.
  5. GR has a strong park system, with wonderful parks across categories. @grparksandrec seems open to residents’ suggestions for improvements.
  6. Parks aren’t by themselves a climate solution (no single thing is). To suggest otherwise is to tinker where we need transformation. But parks can contain solutions and showcase a more hopeful climate future — one that prioritizes people’s health and well-being. They show what a more ecological society could look like: public greenspace accessible to residents of all backgrounds, with climate-resilient features planned into them for residents’ safety. Their trees clean the air and cool the neighborhood, their native plantings help pollinators do their thing, their catchments mitigate floods by absorbing stormwater. (GR’s Joe Taylor is a good example of the last.)
  7. Finally, parks are places where people can be whole and sane and interact with one another and the world. I think noticing nature is a first step, a ‘keystone habit,’ toward making a more habitable home for ourselves and one another. Parks help us build a stronger culture of connecting to nature. That sounds a bit romantic until we understand what connection to nature does for us…and what our lack of it is doing to us.

So here’s to noticing, knowing, loving, and protecting the places that help keep us alive.”

Nate left some extended reading for those who were interested, so we thought we would share them as well for any who would like to learn more!

—”The #1 Easy Thing You Can Do For the Environment You’ve Never Heard Before” (@spencer.r.scott – Medium):

—”10 Reasons Parks Are Amazing” (Medium)

—“Some cities are turning to natural infrastructure to deal with extreme rain events” (Michigan Radio)



about the author: nate rauh-bieri

Nate is the co-captain of the Lyon Street Run Club, an avid runner, and a fan of birds. He aims to love his neighbors while finding new ways to spread his love for nature and concern about our climate. His Instagram (@nathan.rauhbieri) houses his full park posts and other journeys in nature and life updates. Nate is a resident of Grand Rapids and spends his time out in its rural and urban areas often – keep your eyes open and you could probably see him! Follow him on Instagram to keep up on his adventures.