As HOW Conference attendees walked through downtown Grand Rapids last week, a question might have played on their minds: where are all the rapids?
“When I first moved here from New Mexico,” remembers Chris Muller of Grand Rapids Whitewater, “I kept thinking: ‘The name doesn’t really seem to fit. Why do we call it Grand Rapids if there are none?’”
Running through the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, the Grand River did once exhibit impressive whitewater conditions that gave the city its name. As a community and industry developed around the river, however, they altered the river to suit their needs. Water levels were raised and lowered with dams, and the rocks lining the riverbed were removed. The iconic rapids disappeared, and the river has never been the same.
Several Grand Rapids residents have come together under a shared vision of returning rapids to the Grand River and reconnecting residents to the river and their shared history. Proponents acknowledge that this task is complicated and will take time, but will ultimately lead to numerous benefits for the city, including increased economic development, expanded recreational opportunities, and improved fish and wildlife habitat. As Muller explains: “We have a river; why can’t it be an awesome river?” More >