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Kent County Parks Foundation
P.O. Box 230165
Grand Rapids, MI 49523
(616) 458-2080
pmccahill@kentcountyparksfoundation.org

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PRESIDENT'S CORNER
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COLD WEATHER FUN
Boy Skiing
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Warren Townsend Park

Popular park has welcomed its visitors for 83 years


Townsend Park 1927 era postcards courtesy of Cannon Township Historical Museum.

Warren Townsend Park (Get Directions)
8280 Six Mile Road
Cannonsburg, MI 49317

“COUNTY OPENS FIRST PARK AT CANNONSBURG” READ THE SUNDAY HEADLINE OF THE GRAND RAPIDS HERALD ON JUNE 20, 1926.

Townsend Park was the second park to be acquired by Kent County but the first to be developed and opened to the public. This popular destination first opened when paving of US-131 caused a detour past the park property. Its year-round attraction was then, as now, a variety of mature hardwoods and towering pines, with crystal clear Bear Creek winding through a landscape of gently rolling hills. In addition, its proximity within fourteen miles of Grand Rapids makes it just a short drive from home.

In those days, visitors to the 51-acre park could enjoy camping (at 50 cents the first night, and 25 cents for subsequent nights), trout fishing in Bear Creek, or picnics on the improved grounds. Facilities included the Kent County Parks’ first open picnic shelter, built of concrete and native cobblestone, fireplaces for outdoor cooking, water wells with hand pumps, and “comfort stations” (restrooms). Crowds of 2,500 people were a common sight. Within a decade, the park was enlarged with another 80 acres, and its large ball diamond became the main attraction for local baseball teams and their fans through the 1950s. Though the park had been developed to handle 5,000 people by 1931, it often was filled to more than capacity.

A notable addition, the enclosed shelterhouse in Section A with a stone fireplace, restrooms and running water was built in 1941. This building and the parks first open shelter built in 1926 still serve picnic goers in style and comfort.

Today Kent County’s first park has been joined by a bounty of other parks and Townsend Park’s picnic areas have become less crowded. Bear Creek’s verdant banks are still a popular setting for weddings, family reunions, graduation parties and company picnics. The park’s walking trails invite hikers and nature lovers to explore its wooded acres, and cross country skiers to glide through a snowy wonderland in winter.

In spring 2009, a gathering known as The Bear Creek Waterfest drew an estimated 250 people to Townsend Park where the festival took place. The event was sponsored by the newly formed Bear Creek Watershed Council, a group dedicated to protection of the Bear Creek Watershed.

According to the Kent County Parks Recreation and Natural Areas Master Plan for 2009-2013 Townsend Park currently has 144 acres. Visitors enjoy activities year-round including baseball, fishing, hiking, picnicing, nature study, winter sports, and cross-country skiing.

Facilities consist of open shelters, a enclosed shelterhouse, picnic areas, playgrounds, and restrooms.