By Nick Howing
It has always been a part of human nature to be attracted to water. Not only for the resources it provides, but a certain urge that lies at the core of the human spirit. Soon, the urge and attraction for citizens to return to the river will become stronger than ever.
In January of this year, the city of Grand Rapids received funding and support from the Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Agency, and the current White House administration to return the rapids to the Grand River. The $27.5 million project will include the demolition of the 4th and 6th street dams, thus returning the natural flowing rapids to the river. By doing this, the river will become an enticing attraction for kayaking, fishing, canoeing, and many other types of outdoor sports and recreation. In turn fueling business and providing the city with a natural resource to be proud of.
“People want to be around water, and especially moving water,” Mayor George Heartwell said, “The river is a place people want to come to.” This is made apparent by the spending of $320 million in the last 15 years by the city on water quality control.
The restoration of the rapids will provide the migrating steelhead and salmon natural spawning conditions, as well as returning the sturgeon’s original spawning grounds, which were made inaccessible by the 4th Street dam and fish ladder.
“This incredible fish should be sustained. It is important to give them another foothold,” Heartwell said.
However, with the dams out of the way the invasive species, the sea lamprey particularly, would in theory have free roam of the waterways. The city has been working very closely with the DNR and various engineers to develop and construct a mechanical Sea Lamprey barrier. “There has to be a barrier. It is an obstacle we have not figured out how to overcome,” Heartwell said.
With the rapids restored new business opportunities will become apparent, as well as revitalizing the business already established downtown.
“Kayak and Canoe rentals, sports stores, and tackle shops will be welcomed, as well as restaurants that could use the river as an attraction for dining,” said Heartwell.
Although there is no exact date in which the restoration is scheduled to take place, the city is making great strides in bringing the rapids back to the community to give people a fun and exciting way to enjoy the river and bolster business.
“A river is a natural magnet, and if you can get people close to a river and sharing space, I think it helps build community.”