Music and beer help restore Grand Rapids’ river rapids to boost the economy

On September 10, 2016, the sun came out just in time for Tribute on the Grand, where hundreds of Grand Rapids, Michigan residents came out to Ah-Nab-Awen Park for good beer, food. and music.

But also raise money to help restore the downtown rapids of the Grand River.

Two days earlier, at a riverfront event (pictured above) on September 8, Grand Rapids Whitewater released findings of the Economic Benefits of the Grand Rapids Whitewater Project, a study focused on the potential for expanded economic activity directly related to the restoration of a 2.2-mile stretch of the Grand River through downtown Grand Rapids. The study, conducted by Anderson Economic Group and commissioned by Grand Rapids Whitewater, estimates that expanded recreational use of the river and riverfront will stimulate net new economic impact of $15.9 million to $19.1 million per year.

This estimate takes into consideration new and enhanced tourism associated with recreational activity such as kayaking, fishing, rafting, stand-up paddling, wading and other forms of water and riverfront recreation. The estimate comprises net new visitor spending and new earnings for the Grand Rapids workforce.

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, GVSU Economics Department Chair Dr. Paul Isely, Gov. Snyder’s Special Advisor for City Placemaking Rodney Stokes, and Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition Campaign Chair Todd Ambs joined GRWW Co-founder Chris Muller for the announcement to project partners, funders, business and community leaders and the media.

Chris Muller explained that, after being awarded the Urban Waters Federal Partnership and releasing the preliminary restoration plan last fall, commissioning the AEG study was the natural next step in moving this project forward. GRWW needed to demonstrate the viability of this project to our partners, members of the community, and funders. This report does that and lays the groundwork for additional economic impact studies the City is conducting in conjunction with the broader Downtown Plan and River Corridor Plan, which will focus on development on the banks of the river corridor.

FOX 17 TV partnered with Founders Brewing Company to raise money for Grand Rapids Whitewater. 100 percent of the proceeds will help with efforts to put the rapids back in the Grand River, bringing the city back to its roots.

We used to be called Grand Rapids for a reason,” said Chris Muller, co-founder of Grand Rapids Whitewater. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been grand, so the goal is to bring it back to it’s historical roots as best we can. There are certain constraints we have, but we hope to bring it back to the best condition of the natural rapids we used to have and call it grand again and have it be the focus of our city.”

Founders Brewing Company says it’s part of their job to help restore the rapids. “I think by putting the rapids back in the Grand River it will stimulate economic development up and down the river,” said Dave Engbers, co-founder of Founders Brewing Company. “It’ll give people something else to do downtown and really make Grand Rapids a cooler city than it already is.”

See full article & news video.

See Grand Rapids Whitewater website & photo credit.

Read full news release (PDF).

Read full economic impact report (PDF).

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