Thrive Outside Grand Rapids

Photo collage of children getting active outdoors

Who We Are 

We believe all Grand Rapids youth should have equitable access to natural places and spaces for a happy and healthy life.

Research shows 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.


What We Do

Looking for something to do outside? Our Gear Library has you covered with year-round events and outdoor gear rentals.

Winter 2021

Sledding events begin in December 2021, as soon as enough snow has accumulated!

Thrive staff will be at Mulick Park and Plaster Creek Park every Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. as weather allows. During snowy weeks, additional hours and locations will be announced here, as well as on the Parks and Recreation Instagram and Facebook page

Event Details

Every Saturday, the Thrive team will be at Mulick and Plaster Creek Parks from 1 to 4 p.m. Additional events will be announced on the Parks and Recreation Instagram and Facebook page as weather allows. 

Find our staff at the hill to borrow sleds and limited winter apparel. An adult must be present to sign a liability waiver before borrowing a sled. 

Mulick Park (1632 Sylvan Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506) 

Parking lot available. Look for staff near the tennis courts

Mulick Park sled location

Plaster Creek Park (2401 Buchanan Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49507)

Parking Lot closed. Street parking available. Look for staff at the top of the sledding hill at the end of Darwin Ave SW. 

Plaster Creek Park Map

Event Cancelation

Events will not be held under the following conditions:

  1. Air temperature drops below 20 degrees
  2. Ice accumulation on the sledding hill or surrounding area
  3. Rain, or exceedingly wet conditions on the hill
Sledding Event


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 – absolutely free. As a Grand Rapids resident, the gear library is yours to use! If desired, Thrive staff are available to give instructions on the use of any equipment before you borrow.

If you are looking to borrow camping equipment, please contact us before arriving as we require an extended orientation before lending camp equipment. 

Frequently asked questions

Who can use the Gear Library?

Gear rentals are open to all City of Grand Rapids residents. We focus our efforts in SE and SW Grand Rapids, particularly in neighborhoods where residents have faced disproportionate barriers to the outdoors.

How does the Gear Library work?

For individuals and families 

  1. When you arrive for your first visit, we'll sign you up with a free Gear Library membership
  2. We'll give you a short orientation on how to borrow gear
  3. You can borrow free gear for up to one week at a time!

Once you become a member, you can stop in and borrow gear more quickly without having to sign up again.

For large group outings like classrooms or church groups 

We’d love to talk more and see if we can support your outing! To discuss further, contact staff at . We can't guarantee gear availability for groups, and a group fee may be charged.

Are there any fees or other requirements to borrow gear? 

There are no fee's to borrow gear. We ask that you provide 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. 

Locations and Hours


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, and Saturdays from 10:00 am to 12:00pm. 

Gear Library Inventory

Now offering camping gear! To borrow camping gear, you must attend a free orientation with gear library staff. Orientations can be offered in English or Spanish upon request. Minimum orientation time: 1 hour. Visit the gear library or email to schedule an orientation.

Check out our current list of gear available to borrow below. Our gear inventory is always growing! 


  • Hiking leader backpack
  • Daypack (empty)
  • Youth and full-size binoculars
  • Birding field guides
  • Water bottles
  • Hammocks with straps
  • Compasses
  • First aid kits
  • Fleece Jackets
  • Rain jackets and pants
  • Hiking shoes


  • Tents (3 or 4 person) 
  • 35 degree sleeping bags
  • Sleeping pads (foam or air)
  • Kitchen Kit (everything you need to cook dinner at a campsite)

Outdoor Comfort

  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Camping chairs
  • Coolers
  • Picnic blankets
  • Grilling kits (includes lighter, grilling tools, table cloth and charcoal starter kit)

Yard Games and Sports

  • Bocce ball
  • Lawn darts
  • KanJam
  • Ladderball
  • Cornhole
  • Horseshoes
  • Croquet
  • Hula hoops
  • Solo and double jump ropes
  • Portable disc golf basket
  • Disc golf discs
  • Basketballs
  • Futsal balls
  • Tennis rackets and tennis balls
  • Footballs
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COVID-19 Protocols

We're taking these steps to make sure our programs are safe:

  • All equipment is sanitized between uses
  • Whenever possible, equipment will sit untouched for a minimum of 48 hours before it's used again
  • Staff wear masks whenever indoors



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 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


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 to learn more.

About Us

Meet Our Team

George Miguel

George, Equity and Outreach Coordinator   


Dre, Event Coordinator  


Raul, Content Coordinator


Sam, Gear Library Supervisor

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