In the fall of 2020, the City of Kentwood and its Department of Parks and Recreation discovered that invasive species were threatening the biodiversity in many of its parks. Determined to address these important concerns and feeling the need to foster more volunteer opportunities for the community, it was a perfect time to establish an environmental stewardship volunteer group. And thus, the Kentwood Park Stewards program was formed!
Managed by Kentwood Parks and Rec, the Kentwood Park Stewards mission is to assist the City of Kentwood preserve and maintain its parks, trails, and public spaces through invasive species control, native habitat restoration, and park beautification activities.
Launching a new program takes a lot of work– especially during a pandemic! — but Kentwood Parks and Rec hit the ground running by collaborating on various activities with local organizations including Kent Conservation District, Kent County Parks, the Plaster Creek Stewards, Rotary Club, and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council.
The Kentwood Park Stewards have hosted hands-on meetups including garlic mustard pulls, invasive bittersweet workdays, and trail cleanups as well as presented online educational workshops with overwhelming interest. During National Pollinator Week in June 2021, they partnered with the Kent Conservation District on a county-wide “bioblitz” campaign that encouraged community members to observe and identify the flowers and pollinating insects found in our yards and parks.
Furthermore, the Kentwood Park Stewards empower small groups and individuals to steward parks and trails on their own time by providing training and tools to interested volunteers. Completing a simple form allows volunteers to submit their hours online. Volunteers will be recognized after reaching certain milestones.
Through the Kentwood Park Stewards program, Kentwood Parks and Rec is not just controlling the invasive plant species in its parks, they are increasing community interest in and ownership of our shared environment.
The Kentwood Park Stewards typically host 1-2 family-friendly activities per month. All are welcome. For more information, visit Kentwood.us/ParkStewards