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Community updates: Friday, Feb. 12

Mayor Bliss to deliver virtual State of the City address on Feb. 16; three Grand Rapids parks lit with luminary pathways for Valentine’s Day weekend; The Rapid continues paper ticket phase-out with end of 10-ride paper tickets; and more.
Mayor Rosalynn Bliss speaking on GRTV's City Connection on Feb. 1.

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss speaking on GRTV's City Connection on Feb. 1. /GRTV

Mayor Bliss to deliver virtual State of the City address on Feb. 16

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss will deliver her annual State of the City address on Feb. 16, in digital form for the first time.

The mayor’s address will look back on the City of Grand Rapids’ work over 2020, its self-identified challenges and successes, and lay out her vision for the year ahead. It will stream live at noon, viewable from her and the city’s Facebook pages, the city’s YouTube page, and GRTV’s Comcast channel 25.

My hope is probably to do a 20 to 25 minute speech, so it'll be shorter than years past,” Bliss said of the address, last week on GRTV’s City Connection show. “I'll try to be as concise as possible,” she added, smiling.

The digital format comes in light of the pandemic. Bliss will, however, be delivering the address from the Listening Room venue in downtown Grand Rapids.

Joining Bliss to review local government efforts from the last year will be Mandy Bolter, who chairs the Kent County Board of Commissioners, and City Manager Mark Washington. Bolter will discuss county efforts, while Washington will present a video highlighting some of City Hall’s work.

Bliss said on the GRTV call-in show that there will be three priority areas she’ll be discussing:

The three priority areas that I'll talk about are public safety – ‘how do we make sure that we have a safe city for everyone?’ – and then I'll talk about housing and economic recovery.”

An item Bliss mentioned she’ll be including in her focus on public safety is fire prevention.

One point about public safety … is that we also last year saw a record number of house fires and individuals who died from house fires. So there's a lot we need to do around making sure that we're a safe city.”

In 2020, nine lives were lost in five fatal fires, according to the Grand Rapids Fire Department. This prompted the department to pivot to a new education-based approach.

Those interested in attending the State of the City address are able to RSVP on its Facebook Event page.


Three Grand Rapids parks lit with luminary pathways for Valentine’s Day weekend

Three Grand Rapids parks will be filled with luminary-lit pathways this weekend, for visitors interested in another outdoor, physically-distanced activity over this Valentine’s Day weekend.

Participating parks are Huff Park, Garfield Park Nature Reserve, and Roosevelt Park. The event, called “Happy Hearts Park Stroll,” is hosted by Friends of Grand Rapids Parks (FGRP) and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Paths at the parks will be lit with the luminaries, or paper lanterns, from 6-9pm Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The event is a free, self-led experience, with no registration required.

With social distancing in place and restaurants not running at full capacity, couples, friends, and families may be looking for other options for this Valentine’s Day weekend,” said Stephanie Adams, FGRP’s Executive Director. “So, we created a fun winter experience to encourage people to get outside in our parks and do something good for their heart.”

FGRP and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, in accordance with public health guidelines, are asking that groups or individuals wear face coverings when near others and keep a distance of six feet between each other on the paths.

More details about the Happy Hearts Park Stroll is available on the FGRP’s website.


The Rapid continues paper ticket phase-out with end of 10-ride paper tickets

The Rapid transit service announced Thursday that it will no longer be accepting 10-ride paper tickets starting March 1.

Discontinuation of the 10-ride tickets comes as The Rapid continues its phaseout of paper ticket sales, to complete its transition to its electronic fare system, the Wave card.

As always, The Rapid will continue to accept cash as a valid form of payment,” the transit service said in a Thursday statement.

From Feb. 22 through March 5, customers will be able to exchange unused 10-ride tickets at the Information Center inside Rapid Central Station during its open hours, 6:30am-6:30pm Monday through Friday.

We’re excited to continue our Wave card transition to make riding The Rapid as simple as possible,” The Rapid’s Business Affairs Specialist, Bill Kirk, said. “We encourage all riders and stakeholders to provide us with their feedback and questions to help ensure that we get this change right.”

More information about The Rapid’s Wave card is available on its website.


U.K. COVID-19 variant confirmed in Kent County

A U.K. variant of COVID-19 associated with increased transmissibility has been confirmed in a Kent County resident, the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) reported on Sunday.

The B.1.1.7 variant strain is approximately 50 percent more transmissible, according to the KCHD, leading to faster spread of the virus and potentially increasing numbers of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Fundamentally this is a race for the coverage of our population; a race that pits vaccination efforts against the transmission of infections,” said KCHD Director Dr. Adam London. “While we work to minimize the impact of COVID-19 infections, the B.1.1.7 variant is giving the virus increased velocity.”

In light of the variant’s emergence, the KCHD is encouraging testing of people who have traveled out of Michigan in the last 14 days, especially to areas in which the new variants are widely circulating.

Up-to-date outbreak information for Kent County is available on the KCHD’s website.


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