GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Following a shooting at Joe Taylor Park, the City of Grand Rapids is looking into a parks ambassador program that may bolster safety. 

The new program and park event in each of the city's three wards is meant to "elevate the quality of life" for Grand Rapids residents, all through deliberate plans and intentional partnerships, according to city manager Mark Washington. “These pilot programs are part of those plans. We believe we can positively activate our community and help reduce gun violence in our city through these community-based solutions.”

Grand Rapids saw a surge in shootings in the course of five days last month. One shooting took place at Joe Taylor Park, which was full of families and children at the splash pads. The uptick in violence has persisted into July. Over the first weekend in July, one person who killed and three others were injured at shootings during the city's fireworks celebration. 

As a result of the shooting, the city has added a youth program at Joe Taylor Park. It will run Monday through Friday starting in mid-July through mid-August. It’s free for city of Grand Rapids residents. However, registration is required by calling 616-456-3696. The city’s parks and recreation department already hosts a similar youth program at Martin Luther King Park, where kids can take park in basketball, dancing, swimming lessons and learning sessions. Lunch and snacks are provided. More details on the programs can be found here.

Plans also call for the addition of park ambassadors at four neighborhood parks across the city. Each park – Garfield, Highland, Joe Taylor and Martin Luther King – will have two ambassadors who will be on site 3 to 9 p.m., seven days a week starting in mid-July to the end of September. 

The ambassadors will answer visitors’ questions, clarify park rules, offer needed assistance, provide light maintenance such as trash pickup and restroom upkeep and be a presence in the park. A park ambassador tent will be added at each of the four parks that will include information about city services. The city is accepting applications for the park ambassador position here.

The third pilot program includes three community events in neighborhood parks this summer. These events will take place in late July or early August in Garfield, Highland or Riverside and Joe Taylor parks. 

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