Riverside Park receives funding for accessible canoe and kayak launch

Published on February 04, 2019

A photograph of an accessible canoe and kayak launch

State recreation passport grant and City’s parks millage will help increase universal accessibility at Riverside Park


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — More community members will be able to enjoy paddling activities at Riverside Park thanks to a $150,000 Michigan Department of Natural Resources recreation passport grant that will fund park accessibility enhancements, including a universal-access canoe and kayak launch. The City’s parks millage will contribute an additional $80,000 to the project.

“We want everyone in our community to enjoy our parks, rivers and lakes, and this funding allows us to provide easier water access for individuals with mobility challenges,” said David Marquardt, the City’s parks and recreation director. “Canoeing and kayaking is ranked among the top recreational activities for Grand Rapids residents, and this project makes paddling activities more accessible to our entire community.”

The project is slated to begin in spring 2020 and focuses on the middle section of Riverside Park around the lagoon, which is the oldest area of the park. The lagoon is the largest body of still water in Grand Rapids’ parks system and is the location for the safest paddling experiences. Renovations will focus on increasing universal accessibility and include:

  • Replacing the old dock with a universal-access canoe and kayak launch that features guide rails for easy access in and out of the water, launch rollers for easy movement of the watercraft and a transfer bench for easy transfer from wheelchair to watercraft
  • Demolishing the current restroom/shelter building and replacing it with a separate restroom and picnic shelter that meets universal design standards
  • Adding handicap spaces near the dock and additional handicap parking near the restroom and picnic shelter
  • Adding 8-foot-wide paved paths to connect parking amenities to improve access for people with disabilities
  • Replacing the existing portable restroom on the dock side of the lagoon with an accessible portable restroom


Established around 1922, Riverside Park is a 187-acre urban park that is more than 1.5 miles long. Natural features include roughly 1.75 miles of Grand River frontage, a creek, woods, wetlands, mature trees and grass, ponds and a lagoon with access to the Grand River, and islands. During the rainy season, the park functions as a wetland, absorbing river floodwaters. 

“Riverside Park is one of our neighborhood’s best loved places,” said Megan Kruis, executive director of the Creston Neighborhood Association. “Neighbors want our parks to be accessible to all, and we applaud the City of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department for listening and leading. I’m looking forward to seeing more residents paddling in the coming year.”