GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Joni Mitchell would be proud.
Instead of paving paradise and putting up a parking lot, they want to do just the opposite at the corner of Madison and Pleasant on the southeast side of Grand Rapids.
"We're just so excited that they'll make a change and it will be a green space," said Joyce VanHaitsma, who has lived for the last 40 years just around the corner from the old DHS building parking lot. "There's not that opportunity to take the kids somewhere, or the grandkids."
In the old days, before tax dollars dried up and the term Transformation -- the Grand Rapids City Hall word for 'We've got to figure out how to run the city with less money and still provide some of the services residents expect from city hall' -- there wasn't much worry supporting a quality of life program, like the ones offered by the city's Parks and Recreation Department.
Back then, turning a weed-choked parking lot into a green space wouldn't have been that big a deal. In years past, the problem was a lack of space for new parks, especially in the inner city.
Now it's money.
"Yeah, those were the good old days," said Steve Faber, who heads up Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. "We have a parks department that's about 60% smaller than it was ten years ago."
They're the citizens group working with the city to figure out how to fund the parks.
Their latest idea is to have neighbors fund the proposed Pleasant Park.
"The whole premise behind the special assessment district is at least a portion of the park can be funded by the neighborhood who will more directly benefit from that new public infrastructure," he told 24 Hour News 8. "So far, all indications are that the neighborhood is really supportive of the effort."
A special assessment -- $50 tacked on to the tax bills of nearly 400 pieces of property near the park over the next 10 years -- would help fund the new park.
The nearly $200, 000 raised by that special assessment won't pick up the entire $730,000 price tag, but it will help secure matching funds from other sources.
This assessment would fund a new park.
But what about the needs of existing parks? Will taxpayers see a special assessment to mow the lawns or open the pools at their neighborhood park?
Faber said while it won't work in every situation, it could be an option in others.
"Again, it's taking the neighborhood lead on this sort of thing and it's up to neighborhoods to really decide, 'Is this a strategy we want to use?'"
VanHaitsma says she like the idea of helping fund the park through the assessment. She said it will actually increase the value of the neighborhood.
"I like that it's neighborhood based. That there's that excitement, that investment."
But what if you own one of the 400 pieces of property but don't want to be assessed for the new park?
That's where the public hearing comes in.
You can voice your opinion at City Hall at 7 p.m. on December 18.
A memorial is scheduled Thursday night for three young siblings who died in an apartment fire 10 months ago.
A donation account has been set up to help the family with its search to find a missing loved one.
Wind chills will be in the single figures Thursday, with snowfall totals in the 1- to 3-inch range.