GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids city officials were unveiled Thursday for six park-like venues designed to change the way the public perceives and uses the Grand River.

The ideas all complement Restore the Rapid — a project that will do away with dams and other impediments to the Grand River.

The River for All project will focus on six sites along 7.5 miles bordering the Grand River, from Riverside Park to Milllennium Park. The project is designed to enhance the Grand River’s role among community members, making it more user-friendly, welcoming and accessible. The plan includes:

  • A unique tree house deck for people to relax near the Grand Rapids Public Museum
  • Low water access to Coldbrook Creek for child hands-on lessons about river life  
  • A multi-use plaza along the river between Ann and Leonard streets

“(It’s a) big, exciting transformational project, and I think this was certainly an important day for that,” said Tim Kelly, President and CEO of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., the development group leading the GR Forward downtown revitalization effort.

The price tag for the project is an estimated $45 million. Funding is expected to come from state, local and philanthropic grants and gifts.

“We could be seeing the start of development in the next 5 to 6 years. So yes, it might be a ten-year time frame by the time many of these sites are complete,” said David Marquardt, director of the Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department. 

Inclusion was a big part of the effort. The idea: come up with plans that would benefit everybody.

“How far did they go? Not very far,” said Lamont Cole.

Cole is interim executive director of the Grand Rapids branch of NAACP, and was involved in early planning for the venues.

While he sees a lot of potential in the project, he says officials need to recognize some of the systemic problems that tend to keep the minority community from getting involved in civic projects, like the inability to attend meetings during their work hours.

“I think going forward, they need to be more intentional on their inclusiveness of everybody,” he said.

Marquardt says more public input will be required and they’ll continue to tap the community for feedback.

“If there are conversations out there that will draw us closer to them. we’re open to those idea and suggestions,” he said.

The river restoration is set to start in late 2019 to early 2020. A $4.1 million federal grant will cover phase 1 of the project, which entails removing cofferdams south of the Sixth Street Bridge that slow down the river’s flow.



River for All