Economic Development, Government, and Nonprofits

Nonprofit vies for river restoration project

August 12, 2015
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Can the Grand River carry 'magic' into Grand Rapids?
Downtown Grand Rapids and the Grand River. Photo via

A national nonprofit is seeking the job of managing the Grand River restoration project through its implementation phase.

Raymond Christman, senior vice president and division director for the Trust for Public Land, addressed Grand Rapids city commissioners this week in support of his organization’s effort to win the job. The Trust for Public Land has been around for approximately 40 years and has managed several similar projects in cities across the country, including Newark, New Jersey, and Columbus, Georgia.

The organization is the frontrunner and likely partner given that it was recommended by the Grand River Restoration Steering Committee as the appropriate and best model to direct the implementation effort last month in the committee’s final report, which was presented and approved by the Grand Rapids City Commission.

Specifically, the GRRSC recommended the development of a memorandum of understanding between the city of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Whitewater with the Trust for Public Land “to secure private philanthropic funding to support the Grand River Corridor Revitalization Committee’s work, act as interim fiscal agency, and provide project management of the rapids restoration project.”

The Grand River Corridor Revitalization Committee has been recommended to succeed the GRRSC now that the visioning phase is completed. Members will be appointed to this committee in the coming months.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to work with Grand Rapids,” Christman said. “We are involved in park building, park making, developing trails, playgrounds, all kinds of green spaces in cities and metropolitan areas.

“Our overall goal is to try to put everybody living in an urbanized area within a 10-minute walk of a park, trail, playground or other type of green space.”

A major function of the Trust for Public Land would be to develop the public-private partnerships necessary to bring the river restoration project to fruition and ensure continuity during the duration of the project as political leadership changes.

The river restoration work included in the Grand Rapids White Water project would require approximately $30 million, while the overall restoration work, which includes many additional elements including water quality improvements, reaches into the billions. That broader scope is what the GRRSC has been focusing its efforts on.

The next step is for the city to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Trust for Public Land. That memorandum will most likely be presented to commissioners in September.

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