GR Outside

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Everyone in Grand Rapids deserves equitable access to outdoor equipment and spaces

We know that time outdoors, no matter how you spend it, is a key part of a healthy life. We also know that access to outdoor spaces and equipment is not equitable for everyone. That's where we come in. Our Gear Library, outdoor events, and educational courses are here to help everyone in Grand Rapids spend time outside. 

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If you want to spend time outside, good gear is important  

The GR Outside Gear Library is a collection of outdoor gear that is available to the entire community to borrow. The Gear Library exists so that our community can go outside regardless of financial access to outdoor clothing and equipment!

To use the gear library for yourself, your family, or your organized group, you must first become a Gear Library Member. Memberships are FREE to those within Grand Rapids City Limits! Non-Grand Rapids residents and groups can still become gear library members by paying a small annual membership fee. (Individual membership: $10, family membership: $25, organized group membership: $100). 

Gear Library Membership

To become a member online, click the link below to take our new member orientation. The process takes about 10 minutes. 

If you’d prefer to sign up in person, call us at 616-250-6652, or email to schedule an appointment directly with a staff member.  




Gear Library Inventory

The Gear Library stocks over 20 different categories of equipment! 

As a member, you can borrow most items for free. Bikes and kayaks cost $10 per day. 

View Gear Library Inventory


Gear Library Location

The GR Outside Gear Library is located in the lower level of the Roosevelt Park Lodge building (739 Van Raalte Dr SW).

Spanish speaking staff members are often on site during open hours. Contact us in advance if you would like to ensure a Spanish speaking staff member will be available. Translations for most languages can also be made available during all open hours through a call-in service.


How to use the Gear Library

The best way to access equipment is to place a reservation online through our MyTurn website.

If you prefer, you can also place a reservation by contacting staff over email ( or phone (616-250-6652). The Gear Library also has walk-in hours every week on Tuesday and Thursday from 2:00 - 7:00 PM, though item availability is not guaranteed. 

Staff are available to give you tutorials on items you borrow, and they will walk you through taking care of items when you pickup your gear. When you return your equipment, staff will work with you to put items back on the shelves so they are ready for the next community member. 

All of this info, and more is covered during our new member orientation! You can take the new-member orientation anytime online using the links on this page, or staff can cover the orientation in person with you during an appointment or walk-in. 

Resources for large groups

The Gear Library is so excited to support your large group in spending time outside. We refer to large groups in our network as "GRO Partners".

Signing up for a GRO Partner Gear Library membership will give you access to the Gear Library for your group. But GRO Partners also get access to:

  • Gear Library tours for your group
  • Kayaking, biking, and other one-time events co-led by you and GR Outside staff
  • Staff training and support before outdoor trips


We believe that the leaders of large groups know their participants best. By partnering your group with GR Outside, we hope that we can make your time outside even more fun and safe.

Large Groups can become Gear Library Members through the same online orientation that the general public takes. Click below to get your membership started: 





Frequently asked questions

How long can I borrow Items? 

Items can be borrowed for up to a week at a time, then renewed on a weekly basis if you wish. Contacting us regarding renewals is important so that we can ensure gear is available for large groups and other reservations as needed.

What information do I need to provide to become a  member? 

We will ask for basic contact information. At this time we are not requiring ID or proof of address.

How is equipment cleaned? 

We ask that you do certain cleaning tasks before returning items. Staff will make this clear when you pickup your items. Staff check items after drop off to make sure they are cleaned and still working properly before the next person comes to pickup.

What if equipment gets broken or lost?

Every situation is different, and we will never charge fees for malfunctions or wear and tear. If we have to charge you for a broken or lost item, we will only ask you to pay our replacement cost of the item (usually about 60% of the item's retail cost).

Even if you cannot pay a fee, please bring items back and talk to us about what happened. Every issue can be resolved through open communication. 







Kayak Rentals

Our team is offering $5 an hour kayak rentals from 1:00 - 5:00 PM on select Saturdays in Canal Park To rent a kayak, reserve in advance using the link below, or drop in during available hours. 

Reserve a Kayak

Available dates: July 6th, July 13th, July 20th, August 3rd, August 10th, August 17th, and August 31st. 

How it Works

  • Solo kayaks available for ages 10+, paddlers under 10 may ride in a tandem with an adult
  • All equipment, and a basic paddling demo is included
  • Paddlers under 18 years old must be accompanied by an adult on the water
  • All boats must be back back 5:00 PM, the latest available launch time is 4:15 PM



Frequently Asked Questions

When do I need to pay for my rental?

Payment will be taken upon item pickup. Payments cannot be made online. Cash is not accepted. Payments must be made with a credit or debit card. 

Is there an age requirement?

Paddlers under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Paddlers must be over 10 years old to be in a solo kayak. Paddlers under 10 may ride along in a tandem kayak. 

Where can I take the kayaks?

Kayaks will be launched directly into the Grand River and can be taken anywhere north of the park on the river. Kayaks cannot travel south on the Grand River due to the low-head dam below the sixth street bridge.

Do I have to reserve items in advance?

It is helpful if you do, but you're also welcome to walk up to our rental station to check availability.

Items can be reserved by the hour. If the website is telling you that an item is unavailable at your selected time, try moving to a different day or time. We are often booked 1-2 weeks in advance, so if you do not see availability you may have to look further into the future. 

To place a reservation with our team, call 616-250-6652 or email Our phone is not always attended, please leave a voicemail and we will get back to you. 


Guided Kayaking Trips

GR Outside is all about helping people feel comfortable and connected to our natural spaces. Join us for a guided Kayaking trip to learn more about paddling, or to learn something new from a local topic expert.


Available Courses

  • History of the Grand River: GR Outside is joined by Caroline Cook of Grand Rapids Running Tours. Caroline will give an overview of Grand River history from a new perspective on the water. 

  • Trees along the Grand River: Join GR Outside, Friend of Grand Rapids Parks, and LGROW to get acquainted with the trees that live along the Grand River

  • Birds and Plants along the Grand River: GR Outside and our local experts at LGROW will give you a close up look at some of the bird and plant species along the Grand River



Register Here

FREE Family Paddle Nights

One Friday of each month, GR Outside will be at the Riverside Park Lagoon offering FREE 20 minute kayak rides!

  • Paddlers under 18 years old must be accompanied by an adult on the water
  • Solo kayaks available for ages 10+, paddlers under 10 may ride in a tandem with an adult

  • All equipment, and a basic paddling demo is included


Event Dates:  

  • July 26th, from 5-8 PM

  • August 23rd, from 5-8PM

No Registration Required! 

Paddleboard Basics

During this introductory course we'll provide tips and tricks for stability and navigating a stand up paddle board. This single-session course takes place in Richmond Pool. 

Register Here



GR Outside is a proud member of the Outdoors Empowered Network

Initiative Background

In 2016, Our Community’s Children led a community planning effort - with support from the Children & Nature Network and National League of Cities. The effort was a part of the national Cities Connecting Children to Nature Initiative

Learn more about Our Community’s Children and their work in Connecting Children to Nature

In 2019, Our Community’s Children was the recipient of the Outdoor Foundation Thrive Outside Grant, and closely partnered with the Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department to spearhead this initiative. The Thrive Outside Initiative was built on the foundation created by the Cities Connecting Children to Nature initiative. 

Read more about the Thrive Outside Initiative

In 2020, the Thrive Outside Gear Library began pilot programs and community outreach. The Gear Library then celebrated its grand opening and ribbon cutting in October of 2021. 

In 2023, The Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department absorbed the work of Thrive Outside Grand Rapids and renamed the initiative “GR Outside”. With the support of the Parks and Rec Department, GR Outside offers residents outdoor equipment rentals, educational courses, and community events year-round.