Revitalization of the Grand River and restoration of the namesake rapids was called for by the 2011 amendments to the City’s Master Plan developed through the Green Grand Rapids process. This vision was embraced by Grand Rapids Whitewater (“GRWW”), a not-for-profit organization formed to lead revitalization of the River and restoration of the rapids in the 2-1/2 mile stretch running through downtown.
The vision of a revitalized River and restored rapids downtown has catalyzed a comprehensive planning process of the river banks and for approximately seven miles of the river corridor and has catalyzed the first update of the Downtown Development Plan in over twenty years. This coordinated effort between the City and the Downtown Development Authority (a.k.a., Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc.) has been branded as “GR Forward” and identified fifteen “opportunity sites” along the river banks for public access, riverside trails, open space, neighborhood improvements and for private developments that can occur after the river is revitalized.
The ecosystem and recreation function of the rapids in the Grand River have been degraded by five low head dams, flood walls, urban encroachment, and channelization (dredging and grading). Restore the Rapids is a comprehensive river restoration project that seeks to remove or modify the dams, and enhance the channel bed and banks, to restore the ecosystem and recreation function of the historic rapids.
This project represents a collaboration between a number of public and private entities including the City of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids WhiteWater, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
The Great Lakes Fishery Commission shares the project proponents’ vision and is working with local leaders to address the invasive species concern, particularly the fear that sea lamprey abundances will skyrocket if the 6th Street Dam is removed without the prior construction of a viable sea lamprey control structure.