GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As Grand Rapids continues to develop its master plan for the next 20 years, one group of community members is making sure the Baxter neighborhood is well represented.

For more than three decades, Marian Barrera-Young has advocated for the Baxter neighborhood on Grand Rapids’ southeast side. Since the city’s last master plan in 2002, she says a lot has changed.

“We had abandoned houses, we had boarded up houses, we had empty lots, we didn’t have a park,” Barrera-Young said. “Now we have the largest pocket park in Grand Rapids, we have the first KABOOM Park in Grand Rapids.”

But oftentimes, she says people in the area aren’t familiar with where the neighborhood was, compared to where it is now.

“They don’t know the history, it’s like building a house without a foundation, it’s not going to stand. You treat it better if you know where it came from,” Barrera-Young said.

Wednesday afternoon, Barrera-Young and other community leaders walked through the streets of the Baxter neighborhood, not only providing some residents with a history lesson but also gauging where people want to see their neighborhood go in the next 20 years.

“The people live here every day, they know what’s needed on their block and I might think it’s crime and they might think it’s speed,” Barrera-Young said.

One of those taking part in the community walk-and-talk was Rev. Arlan Palmer, a neighborhood chaplain with Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church.

“You look at Baxter neighborhood, it may not be the biggest but man, it is a key neighborhood that helps function within this city and sometimes we are the forgotten neighborhood,” Palmer said.

Over the years, Palmer said he’s also seen the Baxter neighborhood constantly evolve and it will take everyone playing a role for it to thrive.

“Let’s come together and make this a safe neighborhood, a growing neighborhood, a vital neighborhood,” Palmer said.

Barrera-Young said she hopes to have more walk-and-talk conversations in the future.