Thrive Outside Grand Rapids

Photo collage of children getting active outdoors

Announcements

  1. The Gear Library will be closed on November 23-25. If you have needs during this time, feel free to email us and we may be able to setup an individual appointment.
  2. Starting on November 30th, Gear Library hours will be every Wednesday through Friday from 2:00 - 6:00 PM.

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 everyone in Grand Rapids able to Thrive Outside.
 
We are open to everyone in Grand Rapids, and we focus our efforts on families, 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, hiking, hammocking, playing yard games, and more - free to residents of Grand Rapids. To become a member and borrow gear, please come to the gear library to register. Please bring one form of proof of address (Drivers license, passport, piece of mail, etc).

Please note: We require a camping workshop before members can borrow camping equipment. Our 2022 camping workshop schedule is wrapped up - but stay tuned next spring for more opportunities! The gear library will be open year round for all non-camping items.

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

 

Locations and Hours

Headquarters 

The Gear Library headquarters is located in the lower level of the Roosevelt Park gymnasium building (739 Van Raalte Dr SW). The library will is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm. 

Spanish speaking staff members are currently on site every Wednesday from 4:30-7pm and Thursday from 2-7pm. Translations for most languages can be made available during all open hours through a call-in service. Staff will help facilitate this process.

 


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 Grand Rapids residents 18 years and older. Members can also choose to allow dependents aged 16 and 17 to borrow equipment under their account.

Organizations, businesses, and non profits are also welcome, but must schedule a consultation to become a member and use this service. Please email gearlibrary@grcity.us to setup a consultation.

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.

How do I borrow gear? 

As an individual:

  1. Before borrowing gear, please come to the gear library for a membership orientation.
  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 address, 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,  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. If equipment or policies are abused, we may not lend to a member again.

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 member agreement below.

  Membership Agreement in English

Membership Agreement in Spanish

 

 

 


Camping Equipment

Please note: At this time we are not accepting new camping members. If you have already completed a camping workshop, you are still welcome to submit reservations for camping equipment. Please stay tuned next spring for more workshop opportunities!

 

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 and businesses who become members have access to all of the same equipment that residents do. 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. We are happy to help build trip plans, train staff members, or even attend outings with you if we have the availability.

As a group member, we ask that you appoint 1-2 people who can be the points of contact for your borrowing needs.

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

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