MI Big Green Gym: Making Memories at Local Parks

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Whether it’s a small, tree-dappled respite from the city’s concrete, an expanse of undisturbed natural beauty, or the shoreline of your favorite lake, public parks – especially in Michigan – are the place to be.

We sometimes take them for granted, despite the opportunities they provide for recreation, rest, and socializing. Some of my sweetest memories have been made at local parks. I wanted to share experiences from three local Grand Rapids area parks here.

I cherished the frequent walks I took through Riverside Park with my sweet newborn daughter. She’d snuggle against me in a carrier as we ventured out almost daily. Being outside and alive in the world with someone so small and new was magical. I pointed everything out to her – grass, trees, ducks, clouds, puppies, and water – as you can only do with someone who has everything in the world to learn.

Ducks at Riverside Park.

Ducks at Riverside Park.

On my last day of maternity leave, we went on a special walk with extra special things to see. There is so much beauty to be found on the grounds of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. My mood was melancholy, but I was grateful for one last special day for just the two of us. The walking reflection gave me a little slice of peace that it would all be okay, and of course, it was and is.

Five years earlier, back at Riverside Park, I was falling in love with the man who would become my husband. In the very first blushes of dating, I learned a lot about the kind of man he is at that park. He showed me his patience on runs through the park at my turtle pace. He could have sped ahead effortlessly. On a different night, we took a picnic dinner to the park. Overcome by mosquitos, we decided to take our grub back to my house. Envisioning a romantic, riverside feast, I was a little disappointed. My now husband, resourceful and optimistic as he is, pushed the coffee table aside and we dined on the living room rug. Best picnic ever.

Riverside 1

Riverside Park in northeast Grand Rapids.

Versluis Park in Plainfield Township provided the biggest splash and surprise. On a balmy Tuesday night, my then boyfriend asked if I wanted to go kayaking. I said yes. We paddled around the edge of Versluis Lake and then toward the middle. A feeble excuse to open up his kayak hatch was given. Out of the hatch, which just minutes before was upside down in the water due to some fancy kayak tricks, came a tiny black velvet box, a ring, and a proposal. I said yes to that too!

There are so many more – friendships formed and strengthened through runs and walks on local trails, weddings and celebrations, and the everyday memories made during weekend and evening park visits.

Tell us about your favorite memories from time spent at Michigan parks.

Photo credit: Moyan Brenn

Julie Bitely

About Julie Bitely

Mom, wife, and writer. I love my crazy hectic life, but some weeks I’m just happy I’ve managed to shower. Running and reading are my go-to stress relievers and I’m currently trying to be more consistent with both.
 
 

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