Urban Fold

Putting the 'Rapids' Back in Grand Rapids

After more than a century of altering the flow of the Grand River, Grand Rapids' namesake whitewater has been largely eliminated. A new proposal backed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder would "put the rapids back in Grand Rapids."

Jim Lynch reports on the $27.5 million plan to restore the Grand River as a recreational and tourist attraction, and catalyst for economic development. Following the lead of cities such as South Bend, Ind., whose East Race Waterway has generated $78 million in economic development on an investment of $5 million, citizens groups and city officials in Grand Rapids are counting on state and federal grants and private donations to fund the project.

"Not everyone is on board with the plan," however, says Lynch. "Some fishermen worry that removing or lowering the Sixth Street Dam just north of downtown will take away a popular year-round angling spot, and canoers and kayakers are cautious about potential changes to their favorite spots on the river."

"After years of work and millions of dollars spent separating the city's sewer and water lines, the Grand River is healthier than it has been in decades, officials said, and ready for its close-up."

"Several environmental impact studies are still in the offing before the city can begin applying for state permits. But physical work on the river could get started within the next three to five years."

"We have to invest in our community to continue to have growth and development occur and attract the best and brightest to our city," said Suzanne Schulz, director of the city's planning department, who believes the potential economic impact could "be somewhere in the hundreds of millions of dollars."

Full Story: Grand Rapids looks to restore river to natural state


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