DDA greenlights groundwork for Grand River area upgrades

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids is streamlining the process to improve access to the Grand River.

Wednesday, the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority approved up to $412,000 already set aside in next year’s budget for designing, engineering and obtaining permits to fix the Riverwalk and allow more river access at Wealthy Street and Ah-Nab-Awen Park.

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. Planning and Design Director Mark Miller said the aim is to “get people closer to the water in a more meaningful way.”

The funding would lay the project groundwork for improving the boat ramp and repairing the boardwalk at the fish ladder, renovating the Riverwalk from the Blue Bridge to Michigan Street and adding an access point to the river, designing a riverfront area along Wealthy Street with possible fishing or boating opportunities, and moving forward on redesigning Ah-Nab-Awen Park based on last year’s input from the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians.

“We want to move this from concept to reality,” Miller said of the park project.

Up to $150,000 in additional funding will go toward creating a quality notification system, in partnership with the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. Miller likened the new system to the green, yellow and red warning flags posted on Lake Michigan beaches to warn visitors of potentially dangerous swimming conditions. However, this system will focus on the level of sediments circulating in the water.

The Riverwalk repairs are expected to start next spring but are dependent on how swiftly state permits are approved. Miller said the process has been taking a lot longer than in years past.
Bidding and construction of the Wealthy Street river area would start in 2022 or 2023, according to Miller. Renovations at Ah-Nab-Awen Park would happen when the space is no longer needed for staging during the Grand River rapids restoration project.

“We want to hit the ground running” after it’s finished, Miller said.