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 has shown 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.
 
We create outdoor adventure opportunities, particularly for people of color and in neighborhoods with a lack of green space. Learn how to get involved below!

 


What We Do

Looking for something to do outside? We’ve got you covered with year-round events and outdoor gear rentals.

The Gear Library

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

Our Gear Library has outdoor gear rentals for you to use for hiking, hammocking, playing yard games, and more – absolutely free. Read our frequently asked questions and see a full list of gear you can borrow below.

Frequently asked questions

Who can use the Gear Library?

Gear rentals are open to all City of Grand Rapids residents.


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 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 classroom or church groups 

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

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 be open on Wednesdays and Fridays from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm starting.


Community Park Locations

Each week, our Gear Library staff brings free gear to borrow into Grand Rapids parks, just for you! Come say hello and give some of our equipment a test run. Each week will be a little different, but some examples of our gear include yard games, hammocks, basketballs and other team sports gear, binoculars, and more. New dates and locations coming soon!

Gear Library Inventory

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

Hiking

  • 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

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

COVID-19 Protocols

We take public health very seriously. 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
  • Our staff members will always be wearing masks when interacting with you or any equipment

Free Programs in Community Parks

Kids and leaders smiling excitedly at an outdoor Thrive Outside event

Each week, our Gear Library staff brings free gear to borrow into Grand Rapids parks, just for you! Come say hello and give some of our equipment a test run. Each week will be a little different, but some examples of our gear include yard games, hammocks, basketballs and other team sports gear, binoculars, and more. Check out our locations and hours below.

Where to Find Us 

Look for our staff and their yellow van by the tennis courts at each park. These events will be cancelled on rainy days, or if the temperature is below 50 degrees. 

Martin Luther King Park

We'll be at Martin Luther King Park (900 Fuller Ave SE) every Thursday from 2:00 - 6:00 pm.

Plaster Creek Family Park

We'll be at Plaster Creek Family Park (2401 Buchanan Ave SW) every Tuesday from 2:00 - 6:00 pm.

 


Skill Building Workshops

We offer two styles of training courses to help community members and leaders explore the outdoors in new ways. Both of these workshops will happen outside the Gear Library headquarters at Roosevelt Park (739 Van Raalte Dr SW). Dates and more details coming soon!

Camping Workshop

Camping Workshop

Green tent and camping gear in a forested area. A man is lounging in a hammock between two trees.  

Cost: Free

Duration: 1 day

Description: This workshop is designed to teach community members the foundations of a safe and fun camping trip. Our staff will walk you through planning your trip, from creating a packing list, to setting up camp, to returning home after a relaxing and fun time outside. 

After completing this workshop, participants may be eligible to borrow free camping gear from the Gear Library.

Outdoor Games and Leadership Workshop

Outdoor Games and Leadership Workshop

Group of young people wearing rain gear and backpacks hiking in a wooded area near a small creek.

Cost: Free

Duration: 1 day

Description: This workshop is designed for leaders that want to take groups of families or young people outside for single day activities. Once this training is completed, participants may be eligible to borrow large quantities of gear from the Gear Library to support their outings. 

During this workshop we cover:

  • Outdoor games that can be borrowed from the Gear Library
  • Strategies to keep your group warm, safe, and dry
  • Outing planning fundamentals


Partners  

Our work wouldn't be possible without support from our partners and donors. Are you interested in supporting our work by contributing financially or donating equipment? We have sponsorship opportunities available! Please email gearlibrary@grcity.us to learn more.


About 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