The preliminary plan to restore the rapids to a two-mile stretch of the Grand River is out. It’s the first real look Grand Rapids has gotten at the proposed project.
Most of the preliminary plan is a map of the Grand River. It shows a much more naturally flowing river with fewer damns and more boulders. There are areas where people could actually wade into the river downtown, and spots where slower flowing water would form splash pools in the river. There’s a kayak course and fishing holes. There are special reefs designed for spawning lake sturgeon.
“I think it could be one of the most profound projects in Grand Rapids history,” said Jay Steffen, assistant city planner in Grand Rapids.
The city is using this project as part of a broader plan for some ten miles of riverfront; from around Donald Lamoreaux Park just north of the city limits to Millennium Park to the south.
Steffen says while the Grand Rapids Whitewater group is working on the “wet portion” of the plan, the city is working on the “dry portion” of a broader plan. He says they have to be coordinated.
Steffen compared the process to the “river edges plan” the city underwent a few years ago. It helped shape the riverfront trails downtown. But Steffens says this project “is much bigger than that.”
“We’ve got an opportunity here to return two miles of natural rapids habitat to our city and it’s going to be beautiful. People will come here just to see the river,” said Chip Richards, co-founder of Grand Rapids Whitewater, the group behind the project.
Initially the effort to restore the rapids was launched to make the Grand River safer and more attractive to canoes and kayaks in downtown Grand Rapids. The effort has broader goals to restore habitat and revitalize the downtown.
The process to get public input begins in January.