Grand River Projects Flowing Smoothly

Six areas along the Grand River are slated for a major transformation as part of the River for All project, but the project’s completion is still years away.

Plans for the different sites along the 7.5 mile stretch of the Grand River spanning from Riverside Park to Millennium Park include things like playgrounds and park areas, seating areas and observational decks, an amphitheater, event pavilions, a skate park, river access points, and more.

Plans and renderings were revealed on Thursday during an event held at DeVos Place and attended by community members, civic leaders and river revitalization project partners.

The plan includes six “opportunity sites” along the river corridor that will receive improvements to increase access and enjoy-ability of the river and its shores.

The sites included in the design plans are the decommissioned City Water Department storage yard, Leonard to Ann trail connection, Coldbrook property, recently acquired Monroe North property, Grand Rapids Public Museum and Fish Ladder Park. The conceptual renderings of these opportunity sites and design guidelines are available here.

The project has been dubbed “River for All” and incorporates public input collected over the last several years, through different engagement opportunities. The goal is to create a “user-friendly, welcoming and accessible riverfront.”

The River for All project is not to be confused with the Grand River Restoration project, spearheaded by Grand Rapids Whitewater, though the two projects are complementary.

“The River for All is indeed different and separate from River Restoration, but also complimentary,” explained David Marquardt, Department of Parks & Recreation director. “Consultants from both projects have been working together and collaborating on each project. The key connections lie within the opportunity sites.

“Each of these sites will act as construction access points for river restoration project work. Once that work is complete, the city wanted plans for how to build those sites out for future recreational access and opportunity.”

During the event on Thursday, Grand Rapids Whitewater outlined its plans for the river restoration work, with a projected start date of late 2019 or early 2020. It plans to take advantage of $4.1 million of federal funding awarded to the Grand Valley Metro Council through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

The River Restoration work will take approximately five to six years to complete and will be done in phases. At that point, work on the six opportunity sites can begin. “We anticipate beginning work after the five to six years, though some trail connections work could begin sooner,” Marquardt said.

The first phase of in-river construction would take place from I-196 to Fulton Street and entail removing the four low-head beautification dams currently in the river and restructuring the river channel to improve aquatic habitat and create recreational opportunities.

The Sixth Street Dam will remain in place to function as a barrier against invasive sea lamprey until a new Adjustable Hydraulic Structure is built upstream.

The in-river restoration project has a projected price tag of $41 million and the River for All project is estimated at $44 million—money that still needs to be obtained.

“Funding is anticipated to be organized no differently than most city projects that include local, state, federal, grants, private and philanthropic funds to support the projects,” Marquardt said of funding plans for the River for All project.

*Main Image: A conceptual rendering of the Monroe North site. Rendering courtesy of the City of Grand Rapids.

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