By Sam Tucker
For one game taking place on Aug. 21, the West Michigan Whitecaps will become the Grand Rapids Dam Breakers in support of the Grand River restoration project, a project that is set on restoring the rapids that gave Grand Rapids its namesake title.
The river restoration project has been led by Grand Rapids WhiteWater, a nonprofit group set on bringing back the natural rapids that once roared in the Grand River. The project has been in progress for more than 10 years and Matt Chapman, the Project Manager at Grand Rapids Whitewater, is glad to have the support.
“We are honored that the entire Whitecaps organization believes in the tremendous opportunity our community has with the Grand River,” Chapman stated in a press release. “With the support and awareness from The Grand Rapids Dam Breakers, we will work to restore the rapids in the Grand River for everyone.”
The new Dam Breakers logo depicts a sturgeon with a baseball bat, and merchandise is now available for purchase. A portion of the proceeds will go to Grand Rapids WhiteWater to support the river restoration project. The new, alternate jerseys will be sported by Caps’ players in their game against the Fort Wayne TinCaps on Aug. 21.
“This Dam Breakers persona is an awesome opportunity for us to bring awareness to this very special project and we will be doing all that we can to highlight the efforts of Grand Rapids Whitewater,” stated Whitecaps CEO Joe Chamberlin in a press release. “The Whitecaps are an important part of the West Michigan landscape, and we are excited to support this new vision of revitalization, economic growth and plenty of new fun for everyone in our community.”
Bringing back the rapids to a 2.5 mile stretch of river in downtown Grand Rapids might not sound like much, but the project would bring both economic and environmental benefits to Grand Rapids.
The restoration is taking place in two places, the lower reach and the upper reach. The lower reach, from Bridge Street to Fulton Street, will see the removal of four dams along with an addition of boulders and rocks in the river bed. The upper reach restoration, from Ann Street to Bridge Street, focuses on reducing the upstream travel of sea lamprey and other invasive species, along with the removal of one dam.
The removal of dams and addition of boulders in the Grand would bring back the roaring Rapids that haven’t been present since the 1800’s. Returning to the natural flow of things would bring sustainability to aquatic habitats, along with rafting, paddling and all around whitewater activities that Grand Rapidians can only yearn for now.
Although the project has been in progress for about 10 years, support from large community stakeholders, like the Whitecaps community, is welcome support for a project that will bring benefits both for people and the environment.
“A healthy and thriving Grand River helps create a healthy and thriving Grand Rapids and through the Dam Breakers brand we invite all of our Whitecaps fans to be part of this historic movement,” Chamberlin stated in a press release.