The rapids would be far less hazardous than the current state of the river. There is an inherent danger with any “risk sport” that users accept but whitewater recreation is statistically safer than skiing, mountain biking, roller blading and many other outdoor sports according to American Whitewater. Risk is also mitigated through user knowledge, skill level and proper equipment. In-channel users will have to meet state laws for personal flotation devices, and helmets, cold water protection and other safety measures will be recommended. With any change, we recognize the need for a comprehensive public education campaign to make sure all future river users understand their limits and respect the power of a naturally flowing river.
The design of the river very much considers user interfaces and the concentrated hydraulics are all designed to flush and not have the “keeper hole” which all of the existing dams have. Shoreline access is also being developed throughout to allow for self rescue. In the areas where shoreline access is not available, all of the features are designed for clear floating passage and no capsizing hydraulics. The larger hydraulics are located where shoreline access is open and available, on the west side of the channel.
The City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Whitewater have been working closely with the Grand Rapids Fire Department on the design of the in-river features and emergency access points.