GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The chains on either side of a section of the Riverwalk between the JW Marriott hotel and the Blue Bridge are a familiar reminders of what the river can do to structures it flows along.

“This section of walkway has really been sitting in disrepair and waiting for improvements,” said  GR Parks and Recreation Director David Marquardt.

It’s a small section — only about a tenth of a mile — but it’s part of a trail that takes pedestrians through the heart of downtown. 

Changes are in the works.

The city of Grand Rapids expects to get approval from the state‘s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy for an over $800,000 project to rebuild the section of the Riverwalk.

“So there’s greater access for runners, for walkers, for strollers, for rollerbladers. Any activity we want to make sure we can accommodate a good, safe thoroughfare,” said Marquardt.

“The other things we’ll be adding are some new pedestrian scale lighting. It will have a little bit more intimate feel,” he said.

New bench seating and landscaping are also part of the plan. The new boardwalk will still be prone to some flood closures but the new design will limit some of the damage caused by those flood waters.

“New materials, new construction should be able to withstand the impacts that we see and the fluctuations we see with these river impacts and the river heights,” said Marquardt.

When it comes to the overall river restoration plan, the Riverwalk project is expected to have a domino effect.  

State approval of permits for the boardwalk project is expected as early as this spring.

“And that will coincide with permitting that will come for the Grand River restoration project, the museum project, the Lyons Square Project. There are a number of projects that have been sitting there in the que, waiting for approvals,” said Marquardt.

“All of these projects interface and play with one another. And so the approval of one means the approval of others as well. Because they all have an impact, cumulative impact, on the river and the water levels that flow through the city of Grand Rapids,” he said.

Funding for the project will come from the city’s parks and recreation millage, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and the city’s capital improvement fund.