Thrive Outside Grand Rapids

Photo collage of children getting active outdoors

Who We Are 

We believe that everyone in Grand Rapids should have 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. Yet, we also know that access to outdoor spaces and equipment is not equitable for everyone. That's where we come in. Through our Gear Library and accompanying programs, we want to see you Thrive Outside.
 
While we are open to everyone in Grand Rapids, we focus our efforts on youth, and organizations that work with youth, especially in specific focus neighborhoods where access to outdoor equipment and spaces has been deficient. 


What We Do

Looking for something to do outside? Our Gear Library has you covered with outdoor gear rentals and equipment education.

   

The Gear Library

A banner hanging outdoors with outdoor gear icons and text that reads

Our Gear Library facility in Roosevelt Park has outdoor gear rentals for you to use for sledding, camping, hiking, hammocking, playing yard games, and more - free to residents of Grand Rapids. If you are able to do so, we do encourage you to make a financial donation after borrowing gear. Donating will ensure that the gear library can remain free for those who cannot afford to pay for equipment. 

To become a member and borrow gear, please come to the gear library for a 10-15 minute registration orientation. Please be aware that a camping workshop is required before borrowing camping equipment. All other items (i.e yard games, hiking gear, and clothing) does not require a workshop prior to borrowing. 

Locations and Hours

Headquarters 

The Gear Library headquarters is located at the community gym at Roosevelt Park (739 Van Raalte Dr SW). The library will is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm. 

Other days are available by appointment only. Email gearlibrary@grcity.us to schedule an individual appointment. 


Gear Library Inventory

Click here to view our virtual gear library

Have an idea of a piece of gear you'd like us to carry? We'd love to hear it. 

 

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Frequently asked questions

Who can use the Gear Library?

Memberships are available for everyone age 18 and up. As a member, you may opt to allow children or other minors in your family to checkout equipment under your name. Organizations, teachers, and non profits are also welcome.

We focus our efforts on specific neighborhoods within Grand Rapids, particularly where residents have faced disproportionate social or economic barriers to the outdoors. If you'd like to see this work continue, please consider making a donation when you borrow gear. We suggest a $10 donation for use of games, picnic supplies, and team sports gear. For camping gear and clothing, we suggest a donation of $25. 

How do I borrow gear? 

As an individual:

  1. Before borrowing gear, please come to the gear library for a membership orientation. If you'd like to get a head start, create a free online account before coming in. 
  2. After you become a member, you can check out available gear on the spot, or reserve gear in advance. You'll be given instructions to do this during your membership orientation. 

 

For large groups, organizations, nonprofits, etc:

We’d love to talk more and see if we can support you! To discuss further, contact staff at gearlibrary@grcity.us . We can't guarantee gear availability for every group, and a group fee may be charged.

 

Do I need to bring anything to my membership orientation? 

There are no fee's for residents to borrow gear. Please bring one proof of ID, but we will not keep these documents after you show them to us. Proof of ID can be done with a passport, ID, drivers license, student ID, or piece of mail. 

Is the gear library really free? 

Yes! We do not charge deposits or late fees. Please respect equipment from the library so that it can be used by more people. 

 

How do I make a donation.

Equipment donations can be made without notice at the gear library during open hours. If you have questions about what we need or accept, feel free to shoot us an email in advance. 

Financial donations can be made online by clicking here

 

Is equipment cleaned in between uses? 

Yes it is! We have laundry facilities and processes in place to clean items in between uses. Items are also checked in between uses to ensure they function properly. 

Gear Library Policies

The gear library  is a resource for the entire community. We just ask that you treat this equipment as if it were your own, and respect our policies. Doing so will help us maintain this resource for years to come! 

When you come in for a membership orientation or camping workshop, we will go over our policies in detail. If you'd like to see them in advance, you can check out our welcome guide below. 

Membership Welcome Guide 

 

 

 

 


Camp Workshops

Before a member can borrow camping gear, we require that they attend one of our camping workshops. After a workshop is complete, we require a two week minimum notice before camping items can be checked out. Thank you in advance for working with us! 

Please note- this only applies to camping gear (including sleeping bags, pads, tents, and camp kitchen items). All other non-camping items in the library can be borrowed without a workshop.

Camp workshops are intended to give adult participants an overview of drive-up camping trips. Registration is open adults, 18 years and up, who are looking to borrow camping gear for themselves or their families. 

Workshops are hosted at the Gear Library. To sign up, please fill out our registration form by following the link below.

Register for a Camp Workshop Now

If you are representing an organization, please contact us at gearlibrary@grcity.us to schedule a separate consultation for your group. 

 

What You Will Learn

  • How to borrow camping equipment from the Thrive Outside Gear Library

  • Camping trip planning basics

  • How to setup a campsite, including a tent, sleeping bags and pads, and a camp kitchen

  • How to use all other pieces of camping gear that are stocked in the gear library

 

Why Do We Require a Camp Workshop?

We require camping orientations for two reasons:

1. To ensure that members are comfortable with the equipment, so they can have maximum fun

2. To ensure that our camping equipment is treated the same way by everyone who borrows it

Our mission is rooted in a desire to support first time campers, who haven't had the ability to experience a camping trip before. If this is not you, please consider finding another source for your camping gear, so that more spaces are open to first timers. 

 

 

 


Program Support

We empower youth serving organizations with equipment and skills so that they can take their programs outside in new ways. Do you work with youth? Read on below to find out how we can support you. 

Get Started

Organizations who become members have access to all of the same equipment that is in our community inventory list. Additionally, your group may be eligible to borrow camping gear after a skills assessment with the gear library staff. 

We focus our efforts on organizations and after school programs that work with youth who may not otherwise have access to outdoor experiences. 

To get started, set up a consultation with the gear library staff by emailing gearlibrary@grcity.us. The team will determine if your program is eligible for gear library support. Once you become a member, the gear library team will be by your side to help with any skill building or gear needs you have to make your plans a reality. 

Examples of Program Support We Offer

  • Invite a gear library staff member to join your group for a hike, walk in a park, or tour of a local nature center
  • Staff training in outdoor skills. I.e dressing for all weather conditions, camping, hiking, and more! 
  • Group quantities of yard games, sporting equipment, apparel, etc
 
Kids and leaders smiling excitedly at an outdoor Thrive Outside event

 


Partners  

Our work wouldn't be possible without support from our partners and donors. We accept equipment and financial donations, and also have sponsorship opportunities available! Please email gearlibrary@grcity.us to learn more.

Current Partners

Gear Library Sponsors

Great Lakes Sponsors

Logo of Wolverine Worldwide


Lake Michigan Sponsors

Logo of Merrell


Grand River Sponsors

Logo of Moosejaw

Plaster Creek Sponsors

Logo of Bill and Paul's Sporthaus

 UGQ Outdoor LLC Logo


Thrive Outside Grand Rapids is a proud member of the Outdoors Empowered Network

 

Network Partners

Thrive Outside Grand Rapids is a collaborative effort with numerous local organizations working to increase equitable access to the outdoors. This work began through the work of a committee containing the following partners.

Blandford Nature Center

Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth

Camp Newaygo

Expanded Learning Opportunities Network

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

Grand Rapids Audubon Club

Grand Rapids Children's Museum

Grand Rapids Parks & Recreation

Grand Rapids Public Schools

Groundswell

John Ball Zoo

Latino Outdoors GR

Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds

Our Community's Children

Outdoor Afro

Outdoor Foundation

Sierra Club Michigan Chapter

Switchback Gear Exchange

West Michigan Environmental Action Council

 

 


About Us

Meet Our Team

George Miguel

George, Equity and Outreach Coordinator
gmiguel@grcity.us   


Dre

Dre, Event Coordinator  


Raul

Raul, Content Coordinator


Sam.jpg

Sam, Gear Library Supervisor
 
struby@grcity.us

Initiative Background

About Thrive Outside 

Thrive Outside is a nationwide initiative that was started by the Outdoor Foundation. In April 2019, the Outdoor Foundation awarded grants to Grand Rapids, San Diego, Atlanta, and Oklahoma City.

The grants were awarded to support community networks that collectively provide youth and families with multiple, repeat and reinforcing experiences in the outdoors.

Read more about the Thrive Outside Initiative


About Our Community's Children 

Our Community’s Children was the recipient of the Thrive Grant in Grand Rapids, and closely partnered with the Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department to spearhead this initiative.

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 creation, 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:  

“All Grand Rapids youth have equitable access to natural places and spaces for a happy and healthy life.”

Learn More About the Connecting Children to Nature Initiative