GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.- Although they admit that they are not the first to think of it, about 5 years ago, Chip Richards and Chris Muller decided to move ahead with the idea to restore the rapids in the Grand River. Over the last couple, it has really picked up steam and the duo are behind a movement called Grand Rapids Whitewater.
Richards and Muller know that people are very attached to the river, so Thursday night they invited the public to a presentation a the Grand Rapids Public Museum; it was standing room only. Mayor George Heartwell welcomed the crowd, saying that he is personally committed and it “has potential to allow us to completely re-envision our city”.
“We’re volunteers you know. We’re just trying to chart it through, but we’ve been able to surround ourselves with great people who are very supportive, all the way from local government, to obviously the governor to some folks in D.C. as well as private business people.” Muller said.
A slide presentation outlined the history of the Grand River’s use and highlighted why the rapids were removed; in order to better navigate years ago. The idea is to recreate the rapids where they were years ago, from Fulton Street at the lowest end all the way up to almost Ann Street.
“Over the years we’ve used the river for industry, timber, furniture making. This is actually the first hydroelectric dam in the United States, right here on the Grand River.” Richards said.
While it is still in the planning stages, this estimated $27 million restoration still has a list of surveys and studies to be done involving everything from fish,and sea lamprey to economic impact. Their goal is to fix the bottom of the river so everyone can have fun on top of the river, Chip said. As it stands, presenters said Grand Rapids is rated the top sixth destination in the country for rowing and at the same status for an urban fishing river. Therefore, they are going to look at every angle of keeping these great recreational features in place.
“We’re hyper focused on getting the river project complete but we also have a stakeholder process that is in place that is already dealing with adjacent properties and we work closely with the city planning office and friends of Grand Rapids Parks and there’s a lot of energy going into more city parks and more development.” Richards stated.
Several fisherman shared their concerns along with Grand Rapids resident Donna Munro.
“This river is the way it is now for a lot of different reasons and I’m not sure that there’s a sufficient reason to put rapids in it and I’m not sure that the consequences have been well thought out yet, but it sounds like they are still studying it, so.” Munro stated.
It is still too early to put a finishing date on it, Richards added.