Thrive Outside Grand Rapids

Youth playing at Plaster Creek Family Park


Thrive Outside is a nationwide effort to connect communities, non-profits and government with the outdoors. Learn how the Grand Rapids community is connecting our youth to nature through outdoor experiences.

Sledding Events

Thrive Outside Grand Rapids is providing walk up sledding opportunities for families and kids in city parks this winter.

Sledding Events

Sledding icon-01.png

Update: Sledding events are done for the 2021 season. Thanks for a great year!


Thrive Outside Grand Rapids is providing walk up sledding opportunities for families and kids in city parks this winter. Free sled rentals are available during the hours of events. Come by, grab a sled and take a ride!

Saturdays, January 9 - February 20, 12 - 3 p.m.

  • Highland Park (700 College Ave NE) 
  • Mulick Park (1632 Sylvan Ave SE)
  • Richmond Park (1101 Richmond St NW)

Sundays, January 10 - February 21, 12 - 3 p.m.

  • Mary Waters Park (1042 Lafayette Ave NE)
  • Mulick Park (1632 Sylvan Ave SE)
  • Plaster Creek Family Park (2401 Buchanan Ave SW)

Before you go:

  • These events are pending snow conditions, check back on this page for cancellation info before coming to the hill.
  • Please bring a face mask to wear while registering for your sled rental.
  • All sleds are sanitized in between uses and staff members will be following social distancing guidelines.
  • Children 12 and under should come accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Closure hotline: 616-456-3699


Our Vision: 

"All GR youth have equitable access to natural places and spaces for a happy and healthy life."



Outdoor Foundation Thrive Outside Community Initiative

Grand Rapids is one of four communities supported by the Outdoor Foundation working to create partnership networks that create healthy individuals, communities, and economies by making the outdoors a habit.  Learn more about the Outdoor Foundation here


Our collective work is to intentionally engage youth, particularly persons of color in neighborhoods with a lack of green space, in repeated outdoor experiences. We are accomplishing this through several initiatives:

  • Gear Library - We are reducing barriers to outdoor activities by providing equipment and training for youth, families, and youth organizations
  • Youth Programming - We are creating four-season activities that will introduce youth to new outdoor adventures, utilizing both city parks and regional natural areas
  • Youth Employment - We are creating meaningful work and leadership opportunities for young people in the outdoors

What is a gear library? 

The Grand Rapids Gear Library will be stocked with a broad variety of outdoor gear and equipment. From team sports equipment to camping and hiking gear - the gear library will have what you need to go outside year round.

In addition to gear, the gear library staff will be running events to help teach people to use equipment for their desired activity.


How can I access the gear library's gear?

Coming soon - The gear library staff will be bringing gear into city parks where you can use equipment free of charge! Updated event times will be posted on this webpage, or you can join our mailing list to get an email when we are coming to a park near you.

Are you a teacher or youth program provider? We offer training workshops that will prepare you to borrow equipment in bulk! Reach out to us at to learn about how the gear library can support your classroom or program.


What kinds of equipment will the gear library loan out? 

Currently, the gear library has a variety of park activation equipment, hiking gear, winter sleds, and outdoor apparel and footwear. The gear library is currently in its soft launch phase, meaning that our inventory is still growing!

  • Sleds and Winter apparel (coats, snow pants, hats and gloves)
  • Team sports equipment (soccer, basketball, tennis rackets, disc golf, etc.)
  • Yard games (cornhole, ladderball, bocce ball, etc.)
  • Park activation equipment (binoculars, bird guides, hammocks, picnic blankets)
  • Hiking gear (hiking shoes, backpacks, and water bottles)

Look out for our camping gear programing coming Spring 2021!


How will I know that equipment I get from the gear library is sanitized and won’t expose my group or my family to COVID? 

All equipment will be sanitized in between uses. Additionally, whenever possible, equipment will sit untouched for a minimum of 48 hours before it is used again. Lastly, staff members will always be wearing masks when interacting with you or any equipment.


Connecting Children to Nature logo

Grand Rapids Connecting Children With Nature


The Thrive Outside initiative in Grand Rapids builds upon many recent efforts to connect children to nature through community health and wellness, education, out-of-school time programming, job creating, leadership development, and more.

 A community planning effort in 2016 -- led by Our Community's Children with support from the Children & Nature Network and National League of Cities -- created the vision that drives this work.


Why is it important for cities to connect children with nature?

Benefits of Nature


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