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The Grand River?! You mean GR has a River?


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I've always felt like the Grand River "seawall" is a really unpleasant hodgepodge of cement and weeds along the east bank downtown. It's really disappointing because there's a lot of potential there.

Take Chicago's riverfront for example.

Beautiful, consistent stonework plus permanent stairway access to the esplanade which is landscaped with benches and planters. In Grand Rapids, the esplanade could be closed during high water and as for the openings in the side of the embankment in Chicago, in Grand Rapids this could lead to a sort-of spillway for the Grand River limiting the impact of the development on the water's course.

Really though, the main point of my argument is consistency. The wall along the grand river really needs a unified look.

I echo that argument.

Of all the times I've seen people down at the river it's always on the west side near Ford Museum, Gillette and Pearl St. Bridges. With access to the river on the west side of the river I ask why there has to be access on the eastern edge. The space that is used up to create an access point can be used as a level walkway.

I think if the river walk was a promenade it would be utilized as a meeting place for festivals and other attractions that celebrate the space. I'll work on a sketchup to illustrate my point.

Edited by Rizzo
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I always love when Grand Rapids is compared to Chicago, a city with a population, economy and budget 20x larger than GR's. :rolleyes:

In reference to the area by the Ford Museum, that would be negatory. What gives on that?

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Don't shoot me, but I kind of hope 275 Fulton doesn't materialize, because it will mean the end of the nice park area and waterfall structure.

Just an FYI, but I believe the water structure will be kept where it is today and maintained by the new building owners.

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Just an FYI, but I believe the water structure will be kept where it is today and maintained by the new building owners.

Yes, they are going to keep the Mark Singer sculpture. And according to the site plan for 275, 1/2 of that little park will be turned into the indoor "Winter Garden" atrium that they mentioned, which will be open to the public to link the riverwalk to the skywalk:

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(labeled as "green area")

It's a nice little park, but seriously I never see anyone "using" it other than traveling through it while power-walking, which people will still be able to do.

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I always love when Grand Rapids is compared to Chicago, a city with a population, economy and budget 20x larger than GR's. :rolleyes:

In reference to the area by the Ford Museum, that would be negatory. What gives on that?

I agree you can't compare, but on scale that is. The comparison was only to a planned riverfront and only a short stretch, roughly 3,000 or so feet of river. I think the comparison is likened to how we post pictures of buildings or projects from other cities we would like to see here.

I'm positive the very least GR can do is simplify the riverfront through planning. I'm not talking about planned development, say barring skyscrapers from building on the riverfront. When I saw the photos for 275 I liked the mass on that side of the river.

You can plan a riverfront and piece it together as time goes by in a consistant way when funds may become available. Other cities much smaller have developed their riverfront land. Des Moines had a great project proposal for their riverfront that looks to be awesome.

I paged through the current master plan (correct me if I'm wrong) there doesn't appear to be any 'plan' for the riverfront. The only thing I can make of it is that the river is integral to the community.

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I've always felt like the Grand River "seawall" is a really unpleasant hodgepodge of cement and weeds along the east bank downtown. It's really disappointing because there's a lot of potential there.

grap18marriotconst2zf3.jpg

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Take Chicago's riverfront for example.

Beautiful, consistent stonework plus permanent stairway access to the esplanade which is landscaped with benches and planters. In Grand Rapids, the esplanade could be closed during high water and as for the openings in the side of the embankment in Chicago, in Grand Rapids this could lead to a sort-of spillway for the Grand River limiting the impact of the development on the water's course.

chicagoriver2004nr7.jpg

Really though, the main point of my argument is consistency. The wall along the grand river really needs a unified look.

Chicago looks nice, but the Chicago river doesent flood, your looking at the udersgound roadways the actual seaway looks a lot like the crapy section under the AGP. But I do agree that the Grand seawall could look a lot better and more uniform, mabe if it were made with cemented rocks or a design like the s-curve walls with some design to it

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You know, the river's shallowness is actually somewhat of an asset. Because it's too shallow (at least through downtown) to allow easy boat traffic, planners could easily implement a riverwalk that is wide enough to allow seating, temporary shops/restaurants, and entertainment. On a deeper river, the encroachment of a boardwalk like that would be unacceptable because it would impinge on river traffic, but in GR, that's not a problem. Incorporate some wetland plantings as part of the boardwalk (for example, have an "empty" space between the boardwalk and the retaining wall that is filled with native plantings), and you could have an attraction that few cities could match.

It also seems like that kind of a setup would have to be concentrated on the west side of the river for now. It's been a while since I've been downtown, but I seem to recall that the east side has a decent, if not perfect, walkway already. A riverwalk that traverses at least the immediate downtown area would be a huge improvement over what's there now!

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I agree you can't compare, but on scale that is. The comparison was only to a planned riverfront and only a short stretch, roughly 3,000 or so feet of river. I think the comparison is likened to how we post pictures of buildings or projects from other cities we would like to see here.

I'm positive the very least GR can do is simplify the riverfront through planning. I'm not talking about planned development, say barring skyscrapers from building on the riverfront. When I saw the photos for 275 I liked the mass on that side of the river.

You can plan a riverfront and piece it together as time goes by in a consistant way when funds may become available. Other cities much smaller have developed their riverfront land. Des Moines had a great project proposal for their riverfront that looks to be awesome.

I paged through the current master plan (correct me if I'm wrong) there doesn't appear to be any 'plan' for the riverfront. The only thing I can make of it is that the river is integral to the community.

I know upgrades to the riverfront are on the DDA's radar, but the city has to work with an ever-shrinking budget every year. If you look at the Chicago River, the Muskegon Channel, or the Grand Haven channel (just for instance), they were all built and re-built in a uniform and beautiful manner with a LOT of help from the federal government through the Army Corps of Engineers. Maybe GR should go to the federal government. :dontknow:

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Upgrades to keep it presentable at best. I don't expect much of improvements or overhaul in how the river front is decorated especially in any state crisis.

From what I remember Des Moines found a private partner to champion their makeover. If the Grand River is directly tied to the success and well being of this city it can probably also be thought of as an investment opportunity. Although, I really wouldn't hold it against anyone not to come forward and post some money for the investment.

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Don't get me wrong. I think a cohesive look to the riverfront would be a great thing, albeit extremely expensive.

Also, from the DDA this week:

Planned activities for FY 2007include:

Repair of Ah-Nab-Awen Park Riverwalk

Downtown Senior Center

Louis Campau Promenade Phase I Restoration

Monroe Center

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I went to Chicago over Memorial Day with my fiance (a trip I won from work this past Christmas!) and was thinking about the differences in recreation/tourism budgets between there and GR at that time. We were there for the first fireworks display at Navy Pier, and I said to him "I like how Chicago can afford to have firework shows twice a week between Memorial and Labor Day, and Grand Rapids can hardly scrape enough together to have them once"

Big differences between here and there. They have a lot more shopping too!

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Looks like the ground cover has been restored. This section of the riverwalk from Pearl to the blue ped bridge extending around the museum carousel looks very nice with the repairs done to the sidewalks and railings. We've noticed either a Sandhill Crane or Great Blue Heron hanging around here lately, and if you come up on him/her and he takes flight, he squawks at you like a Pterodactyl. :)

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I say leave it the way it is except tear the dams down to restore the rapids so the city can rightfully claim its namesake.

Yes, truly what purpose do the dams serve now??? Do they have some magical flood control properties? What if you could launch a boat at Riverside park, and cruise down to Pearl for fireworks? That would be great! Other issues exist, like the minor depth issue. But it would be interesting to see what it would be like without the dams. Could you have half the width with random boulders creating our "rapids" and dredge a channel on the other half so boats can move up and down freely? The river could be so much more...

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... What if you could launch a boat at Riverside park, and cruise down to Pearl for fireworks? That would be great! ...

The Detroit River is packed with watercraft during their annual fireworks. And there's one or two marinas and boat clubs on the same channel/access.

In Baltimore, the Inner Harbor is a huge gathering place for peds, shoppers, watercraft. There's an aquarium, huge market building, street vendors, paddle boat rental, fun fun fun.

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From what I understand the dams are there to regulate the flow of the river. With out the dams the river would recede during the summer exposing much of the river bed making for not only an ugly sight, but a very stinky one as well. However I would like to believe the possibility of replacing the dams with some kind of artificial rapids designed in such a way to restore the city's name sake and maintain control of the river's flow. The only question is how much it would cost.

Yes, truly what purpose do the dams serve now??? Do they have some magical flood control properties? What if you could launch a boat at Riverside park, and cruise down to Pearl for fireworks? That would be great! Other issues exist, like the minor depth issue. But it would be interesting to see what it would be like without the dams. Could you have half the width with random boulders creating our "rapids" and dredge a channel on the other half so boats can move up and down freely? The river could be so much more...
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Then no more fish ladder... or it's upkeep. Which may not be high, I don't know, but another factor. I think it would be absolutely incredible to have an open waterway. Although I'm sure it only amounts to a daydreamers project.

In the hypothetical, that the dams were removed - does anyone know where the water level would end up at?

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From what I understand the dams are there to regulate the flow of the river. With out the dams the river would recede during the summer exposing much of the river bed making for not only an ugly sight, but a very stinky one as well. However I would like to believe the possibility of replacing the dams with some kind of artificial rapids designed in such a way to restore the city's name sake and maintain control of the river's flow. The only question is how much it would cost.

The dams were built to provide a constant supply of water to the mills (Voight Milling - west side south of Pearl)was the last one) on the banks. There were canals on both sides of the river for that purpose.

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In the hypothetical, that the dams were removed - does anyone know where the water level would end up at?

Probably not much more than knee deep. In late August upstream of Northland Drive is barely knee deep and there's area's that you have to be cautious to get past with a jet ski. Similar conditions are downstream of Wealthy Street.

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Probably not much more than knee deep. In late August upstream of Northland Drive is barely knee deep and there's area's that you have to be cautious to get past with a jet ski. Similar conditions are downstream of Wealthy Street.

could you make bottlenecks in the more shallow areas to increase depth and the speed (rapids)?

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Probably not much more than knee deep. In late August upstream of Northland Drive is barely knee deep and there's area's that you have to be cautious to get past with a jet ski. Similar conditions are downstream of Wealthy Street.

So it's shallow now - if dams went away - shallower, with exposed nasty river bed... how then did boats go up down in the mid 1800's? Or even logs? From my understanding, there were paddle wheels on the Grand all the time, and a very busy landing where the Northland Dr Bridge is. How much did man and his progress alter the river? Was the river a lot narrower when it was natural? Sounds like the river's greatest value to GR and surrounding communities is that of a wide sewer pipe.

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So it's shallow now - if dams went away - shallower, with exposed nasty river bed... how then did boats go up down in the mid 1800's? Or even logs? From my understanding, there were paddle wheels on the Grand all the time, and a very busy landing where the Northland Dr Bridge is. How much did man and his progress alter the river? Was the river a lot narrower when it was natural? Sounds like the river's greatest value to GR and surrounding communities is that of a wide sewer pipe.

I don't think that many boats did go up and down the river. In fact, the rail bridge that is between Wealthy and Fulton is a "swing" bridge that swivels to allow boats to pass. Shortly after it was built (back in the early 1900's), the river South of Fulton was deemed "non-navigable", so it was a waste to build in the swinging portion. There's a VERY big possibility that the river is much smaller today and carries less volume than 100 years ago. Small lakes turn into swamps, rivers eventually run dry as population grows and more water is taken, it's the "natural" order of things. Even the Colorado River doesn't even reach the Gulf of California anymore due to water diversion, and that has just happened in the past 30 or 40 years.

I think once the sewage separation project is finished, it won't be quite the "sewer pipe" that people think it is. And most of the overflows occur South of Wealthy now (I believe). Raildude'sDad probably knows for sure. From what I've heard and read, the river is cleaner today than it has been in decades and decades (possibly even before the furniture industry explosion).

There was also a discussion here a year or two ago about dredging the river and apparently it's filled with a lot of heavy metals and contamination that are embedded in the soil, that are fine now but would be deadly to fish and wildlife if they were dug up and released.

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I'm not sure how much effect this will have this far downstream, but to inspect the North Lansing Dam in Old Town Lansing (which also includes a rather large fishladder) the local utility is going to lower the river to inspect the dam starting this month and continuing into September. Many are speculating that they are using that as a cover to get rid of the dam to return the river to its natural flow. The DNR had proposed this back sometime last year and was instantly met with almost unanimous resistence, as it would get rid of the fish ladder and the water levels would be lowered through downtown leaving a lot of boatlifts and waterfront structures high and dry. These rivers are actually larger than they originally were because of the dams.

Grand River water level to be lowered in July

Fishermen question lowering of river level

Edited by Lmichigan
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