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Experience Grand Rapids launches personalized travel planning website

Experience Grand Rapids launches personalized travel planning website

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.---Experience Grand Rapids, the official destination marketing organization for Kent County, recently announced the launch of its new personalized travel planning website, www.GRCityTwist.com.

The new interactive website targets 18 different interests, from “art lovers” to “thrill seekers”, allowing the visitor to customize their trip.  For example, craft beer enthusiasts can find breweries to explore, activities and nightlife related to craft beer, and accommodations for the weekend.

EXGR launched the new, mobile-friendly website on Dec. 17 at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park with the hospitality community, business and political leaders, and its Certified Tourism Ambassadors.

John Ball Zoo ownership shift approved by county commissioners

John Ball Zoo ownership shift approved by county commissioners

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—John Ball Zoo is getting the green light for new ownership.

During their regular meeting Thursday, Kent County commissioners formally approved a plan to put a new nonprofit group in charge of the zoo.  The changes come after years of study.

Supporters say the ownership shift will give the zoo new opportunities, but a labor leader is concerned the new plan may deny veteran zoo employees some of the many hours of sick time they have accrued. A county leader said Thursday they have great confidence all zoo employees will be treated fairly. 

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks awarded grant to grow urban forest

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks awarded grant to grow urban forest

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.— Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is getting even more funding to create a larger, healthier urban forest.

The Grand Rapids Community Foundation is awarding the organization with an additional $189,200 to recruit volunteers and rally community support for neighborhood trees.  The GRCF originally awarded the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks nearly $254,000 two years ago to launch the Urban Forest Project. Since then,  volunteers with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks have planted 489 trees, including those in Brewer’s Grove in Riverside Park.

"Growing our urban tree canopy is important not just for us – but for all the future generations after us. It’s about health, it’s about the environment, it’s about the future health of our city," said Community Foundation President Diana Sieger.

Going to the dogs: Covell Dog Park open and welcoming pets

Going to the dogs: Covell Dog Park open and welcoming pets

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—   Dogs now have a new place to roam in Grand Rapids.

The new entry gates are up and the cement entryway is down at Covell Dog Park.  Project co-leader Jessica Kooistra says volunteers have also brought picnic benches, dog waste pickup bags and trash cans into the two acre space, which is already being used by dog owners and their pets.

Covell Dog Park is located at the corner of Bridge and Covell, behind Union High School.  Kooistra says the space was once occupied by tennis courts.  The city eventually ripped out the cement and planted grass, but left the high fences, making it a perfect spot for a dog park.

New bike path to cut through Grand Rapids

New bike path to cut through Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—A new bike path will soon take shape in Grand Rapids.

The city is getting a $618,514 grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation to create the Seward Avenue Bikeway.  The 3.5 mile bike route will cut through the heart of Grand Rapids and connect nearly 190 miles of regional trails, including the White Pine Trail, Oxford Street Trail and Kent Trails. The path will run along Seward Avenue from Wealthy Street to the Riverside Park trailhead and include a bike shelter, bike lockers, bike signs and signals and an upgraded pedestrian bridge over Indian Mill Creek at Broadway Avenue.

The project is expected to cost just over $1 million.  Additional funding will come from the City of Grand Rapids, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., Bikes Belong and Freewheeler Bike Shop.  The city commission will recognize all financial supporters during its meeting at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.    

UPDATE: Growing up in Nazi Germany: A museum volunteer remembers

UPDATE: Growing up in Nazi Germany: A museum volunteer remembers

UPDATE: The Grand Rapids Public Museum has postponed Saturday's lecture due to illness.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—This Saturday will mark 72 years since Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, pushing the United States to enter World War II.

This Pearl Harbor Day, the Grand Rapids Public Museum will turn the spotlight on one of its own volunteers, who grew up in Nazi Germany.  Bernie Siehling will share an insider’s perspective of the rise and fall of Adolf Hitler and Nazi rule.  Siehling plans to talk about avoiding Hitler youth, building relationships with Prisoners Of War ordered to work on his family’s farm, and witnessing a British Royal Air Force Bomber crash.

Senator Jansen decides against congressional run

Senator Jansen decides against congressional run

KENT COUNTY, Mich.—  Republican Senator Mark Jansen says he will not join the race for Congressman Justin Amash’s seat next year.

“I have decided at this time my focus will continue to help Michigan find the road to recovery, from Grand Rapids to Detroit to the Upper Peninsula to our lake shores,” Jansen said. ”Right now I really feel the call to continue helping Michigan’s recovery as my Senate term ends in 13 short months.”

Jansen says he has been “strongly encouraged” to run for the 3rd Congressional District seat for the past two years.  He believes people want the same level of reform achieved in Michigan to happen in Washington.

Jansen represents the northern portion of Kent County.  The U.S. 3rd Congressional District includes Belding, Rockford, Lowell, East Grand Rapids, Walker, Ada and Cascade, Alpine Township, Sparta, Plainfield Township and all of Grand Rapids.