Future plans for Grand River corridor revealed at River for All event

Published on November 01, 2018

A rendering of river and park space concept detailed in the River for All plan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Community members, civic leaders and river revitalization project partners gathered today at DeVos Place to reveal the River for All conceptual designs for the Grand River corridor. 

Building off years of extensive community engagement, conceptual plans were shown for the 7.5-mile river trail that eventually will flank both sides of the Grand River from Riverside Park to the north and Millennium Park to the south. River for All is a project of the City of Grand Rapids that includes the design of six opportunity sites along the Grand River and the creation of design guidelines based on feedback from city residents and community stakeholders on their needs and desires for a user-friendly, welcoming and accessible river front. 

“Grand Rapids is facing a strong and bright future as improvements continue to be made to our valued park spaces across the city,” said David Marquardt, the City of Grand Rapids’ director of parks and recreation. “Today’s plans build on the momentum behind these park improvements and ground these valued riverfront park spaces in the city’s wider ecological, environmental, social, cultural and economic context.” 

The River for All project stemmed from the 2012 Green Grand Rapids Plan and offered an additional year of community engagement focused on the opportunity sites and design guidelines. River for All complements the 2015 GR Forward Plan, 2017 City of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Strategic Master Plan and the efforts to restore the city’s namesake rapids being spearheaded by Grand Rapids Whitewater

“We have long seen the restoration of the river as a catalyst for future development in the river corridor,” said Matt Chapman, project manager for Grand Rapids Whitewater. “Through the ongoing collaboration with the City, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc, Grand Valley Metro Council and River for All, we have been able to coordinate these bold plans and establish a community vision for how we interact with our river and river edges.”

Grand Rapids Whitewater outlined the anticipated plan to start the initial phase of construction in the river in late 2019 or early 2020 to take advantage of $4.1 million of federal funding awarded to the Grand Valley Metro Council through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. 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 (AHS) is built upstream. 

Grand Rapids Whitewater and the City are working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission on the design and long-term operations plan for the AHS. Once the AHS is constructed and operating as a barrier to invasive sea lamprey, the Sixth Street Dam can be removed. 

“A revitalized riverfront will provide spaces and connected trails that invite Grand Rapidians to enjoy natural amenities in an urban context while also strengthening our community’s ability to withstand severe flood events,” said Tim Kelly, president and CEO of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. “As Grand Rapids transitions back to a waterfront city that embraces its namesake rapids, these assets will become gathering spaces that provide activities and amenities for everyone in the community to enjoy.” 

The river edge plans revealed today showed conceptual plans to restore six opportunity sites for river restoration construction access and staging. The sites include 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 City of Grand Rapids hired Wenk Associates of Denver to develop the design plans for the opportunity sites and the design guidelines for the trail. The design guidelines will inform public and private investments and how the river edges will be designed to support a connected linear trail network. 

Wenk Associates specializes in river ecology and design and has worked closely with Grand Rapids Whitewater and River Restoration Org to coordinate the interface of the river restoration and future river edge improvements. Local partners in this work include Viridis Design Group, FTCH and Williams & Works.

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