Did you know that the Grand River is the longest river in Michigan and is approximately 252 miles long?
The Grand River runs from Hillsdale County to Lake Michigan at Grand Haven.
Ever wonder what our river looked like a century ago, or even before the settlers came?
While we do not know exactly what it looked like more than a century ago, we do know that it was a white water river and there are some earlier descriptions of it that exist in text. A description found by MLive writer Jim Harger that he published in an article (printed Sept. 17, 2012 Before downtown dams. Grand River was 'our Garden of Eden,' says Native American leader) on the site goes on to say:
“These rapids are about a mile in extent and 300 yards wide and must have at least a 10-foot fall, some think 15,” said an 1826 article about the river that appeared in the National Intelligencer.
“They are crowded with huge round rocks, among which the water roars and foams with great fury.”
Another writer had this to say about the rapids: “The total (fall) amounted to about 18 feet, or sufficient to give a decided turbulent and wild appearance to the waters, and to make a noise that broke the stillness of the forest and echoed from neighboring hills.”
Native American who settled along the river before the arrival of the French and the British called the river O-wash-ta-nong, which means Far-away-water due to it's length.
Why did it change so much and what happened to the rapids that the name of our city suggests?
By the mid-19th century the settlers began to tame the river. There were 4 islands that eventually disappeared due to the progression of the city!
The Rev. John Booth sketched the village of Grand Rapids in 1831, looking northwest from what would be the heart of downtown. The three buildings on the far right are city founder Louis Campau's cabin, a trading post and a blacksmith shop, located about the site of today's Civic Auditorium and the Windquest Building. Across the river is Rev. Leonard McCoy's Baptist mission, the Thomas Mission Station. In the foreground is the camp of Ottawa Indian chief Qua-ke-zik, or "Noonday," one of McCoy's converts. A series of quick treaties negotiated between 1821 and 1836 by then Michigan territorial governor Lewis Cass had whittled away Indian lands and opened then up to Michigan settlers at $1.25 per acre. (Courtesy | Grand Rapids Public Library and was used in an MLive story at the following link: http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2012/12/feud_between_grand_rapids_foun.html
It is interesting to note that in July of 1913 an article was written in Grand Rapids Progress about how our historic rapids had by then almost disappeared from view due to power canals that were installed on either side of the river to carry it through factories. In July of 1913 there was also a meeting between 100 people in Grand Rapids who had wanted to dig the Grand River deeper and make it a "lake port" of Lake Michigan, that by December of 1914 it was declared inadvisable.
Low head dams:
According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) website there are a total of five low head dams on the grand river which hide our historic rapids and prohibit many uses of the river. Low head dams can be very dangerous and the 6th St. dam has had at least a fatality a year according to the DNR.
The Grand Rapids Fish Ladder (according to the Michigan DNR website):The first fish ladder on the Grand River was completed in 1975 in Grand Rapids at the 6th Street dam to allow fish to make it over the low head dam. "The Sixth Street dam near downtown Grand Rapids prevents migratory fish such as salmon and steelhead from moving up and down the Grand River. However, on the west side of the river, a series of stair-step concrete pools called a fish ladder has been constructed to allow these fish to bypass the dam on their journey upstream toward Lansing. A specially designed viewing structure allows visitors to see fish as they pass by. Parking is available adjacent to the fish ladder and also nearby on the street.
The fish ladder at this site was designed and built with fish viewing in mind. Visitors can view several fish species put on quite a show as they "climb" the ladder by jumping from pool to pool. Large steelhead may be seen at this site in the spring, while coho and chinook salmon are best viewed in early fall. Other species such as carp might be viewed here any time of year. Carp are very vigorous jumpers that provide spectacular entertainment."
Did you know that almost 40% of our river is walled off?
The industrial age was also unkind to our river, with the removal of bed rock that became some of our historical buildings (St. Mark's Episcopal Church being one, even some of our early public schools which are now long gone) and the factories that were built that needed power. Storm run-off and pollution. Efforts have been and continue to be ongoing to restore it with pollution control. Our city has done a lot of work to get it to the level it is at now and that work is ongoing. In 1904 due to flooding began the construction of flood walls and other measures to keep the rising waters at bay. They also kept people from enjoying the river on it's level.
The Public Debate.
Not too long ago (2012) there was a debate in Grand Rapids about whether to restore the rapids to the Grand River or not. The consensus ended up being that it would happen. While some may not have liked the outcome of this debate, others are excited about the possibilities. We as residents on either side of that debate have a great opportunity to help shape the plan on how it happens and move forward.
How can you be a part of the planning?
There are community mini series meetings and regional meetings occurring in the next couple of months in our neighborhood and around the city at large. Planning meetings where the city would like to hear your ideas and questions about the implementation of these changes to the Grand River. They are being held by a local group called GR Forward. We have previously posted the meetings in the event section of our WGNO Facebook Events page and to the calendar on our website. We have also posted other materials to these sites having to do with the Grand River and Please see those pages for the dates and times or to share them with friends. It is time for the west side to also lend their voices to the planning!
Not only will you be able to help shape the plan, but you will also be introduced to new terms and concepts, like "terraced bioswales," Which is when small levees on the banks hold back flood waters while offering park-like settings during times when there is no flood threat. The planners will also show you how other riverfront cities have created public spaces. Such as the ones viewable here: River Views - A GR Forward Contrast of Grand Rapids' treatment of the Grand River and how other cities are making use of their rivers
It is also important to note that other cities and towns have been successful in taking dams out of their waterways, making them more natural and appealing to visitors, like in Mount Pleasant, Michigan along the Chippewa River and others. With positive results.
Moving forward with GR Forward:
To learn a little more about the Downtown and River Action Plan check out this MLive Article: MLive - Getting to know the Grand: GR Forward planners work with Whitewater, FEMA on river restoration
We would also love to hear from you if you attended one of these series meetings!
Tell us what you thought or send us pictures!
The Northwest Regional Meeting is at Union High School 1800 Tremont Blvd. NW Grand Rapids, MI 49504 on December 17th, 2014 from 6:30 - 8:00 pm
Source Articles and other information for this post are derived from the following:
MIGenWeb - History of Grand River Boating - Transcription information from the book: History of the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan By Albert Baxter Copyright 1891 by Munsell & Company 208 Broadway, N. Y.
History of Grand Rapids.org - Why this place is called Grand Rapids Transcription information from the book: Grand Rapids Progress, July 1913, page 125.
MLive - St. Mark's Episcopal Church in downtown Grand Rapids has edifice constructed from Grand River Stones
PLEASE NOTE: We do not own any of the content and provided the links to give credit due to those who deserve it. If we forgot anyone please let us know and we will credit the information!
New posts about events and parking restrictions. Please take a look at the Latest News section here: Latest News
We have updated the WGNO Business Directory to include a map with information on the businesses. We also added more businesses to the list (from 39 to 53), while that may not seem like many, the information needs to be put in by hand and then the document is uploaded to a site to make it possible. Also the code needed to be added to allow for it to be on our site. We removed the old business directory to make the page easier to read. Plus the old directory was more time consuming to update! However, you now get the best of both worlds, the information, plus a searchable map! Take a look: West Grand Business Directory
More calendar dates have been added to our calendar here: WGNO Calendar
Runners, walkers start Thanksgiving with the annual Turkey Trot!
Thursday, November 27, 2014 – Grand Rapids Public Schools TURKEY TROT presented by Blue Care Network of Michigan that will feature a 5K through downtown Grand Rapids (8:00 am start) and the New Balance Mini-Trot for kids 12 and under (8:40 am start).
Van Andel Arena, 130 Fulton St West, Grand Rapids. MI 49503*Pick-up your packet the day before the race on November 26th.
Strollers and joggers are allowed, however at the starting line, please line up behind those without. Dogs, bikes, roller blades and skateboards are prohibited.
Long sleeve T-shirts will be presented to all 5K registrants. Stay following the race to receive the Awards. Awards will be given to the Overall Male and Female Open and Masters winners, 1st through 3rd place Male and Female in each age category. Age category awards are based on chip time.
Age Categories are:
10 and under
11-14 30-34 50-54
15-18 35-39 55-59
New Balance Grand Rapids Mini Trot: For all of our mini-trotters 12 and under we have a 1K course just for you!
The mini trot begins approximately 40 minutes after the 5K so majority of those participants will be able to watch or join their children for the mini trot.
Registration for the mini trot is free. All participants will receive a finishers prize!
Registration and Cost:
Oct-Nov 26: $30.00
Day of Race Registration: $35.00 (6:30 am to 7:58 am)
For registration and other information go to: http://www.grps.org/athletics/turkeytrot/ or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1556618187908748/
Funds raised support GRPS Athletics and offset the costs of pay-to-play for the more than 6,000 student athletes in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Lend your voice to help create a vision for Downtown and to re-imagine the River Corridor. Please join your neighbors at three meetings in your area! Your voice is important!
The meetings on the NW side have been added to our calendar. We also have them listed on our Facebook page under events! WGNO Facebook Events Click join to get reminders of the event and additional details.
It is that time of year again and we have updated information on winter parking restrictions due to questions asked of us. We have gotten a response from traffic and safety.
List of streets with new restrictions:
We are assuming that the reason for this is that if they still let people park on the side of the road that is restricted, the emergency crews and plows might not be able to get down that road in order to provide services like fire or plowing which is why they are instituting these restrictions in the first place. That being said they did say they will work with the individual who applied if they have been approved.
For handicapped or disabled individuals:
WGNO has been in contact with the City of Grand Rapids Traffic and Safety Department over possible issues regarding disabled individuals and parking on these streets. We have received a response after they had meetings with the Grand Rapids Fire Department and their department. "Talking to the streets and fire department, it was decided that we cannot accommodate license plates or signed parking spots for the side of the roadway that we will restrict with the winter one side parking ban. We will take applications for reserved spots on the roadway but it may have to be on the side that is not restricted. Here is an application for handicapped parking and we will work with the individual if approved."
If you are handicapped or disabled, you can apply for the reserved roadway spots if you qualify under the criteria that they have listed on the application at the link below:
You can submit this application to:
City of Grand Rapids Traffic and Safety Department
509 Wealthy Street SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
For questions you can contact 311 or (616) 456-3066 for the City of Grand Rapids Traffic and Safety Department
If anyone asks why these restrictions are important, please see our other blog post here: Why Even/Odd Parking and Keeping Sidewalks/Fire Hydrants Clear is Very Important
As winter approaches as neighbors in an old city neighborhood, we are all to aware of how parking/travel in the winter can be difficult. In this post we will be discussing why Even/Odd Parking, Snow Removal/Sidewalk and Fire Hydrant Clearing is Important. Listed below are the reasons why we need to work together as a neighborhood!
Rental properties with more than one household in it makes for needed parking on the street due to multiple vehicles. Even single family properties have multiple vehicles and maybe a small driveway. It is understandable when you have a car and need to park at home, however there is a good reason for Even/Odd parking rules. Safety.
In the winter travel gets more and more difficult for emergency vehicles and residents trying to get to and from work, especially during winters like the one we are currently in where there is a larger amount of snowfall. This is especially the case when residents or visitors do not observe the even/odd parking rules or there is an abandoned vehicle that the plows cannot get the roads cleared because they are in the way. The situation gets more dangerous for both pedestrians, homeowners and drivers when the snow keeps piling up, roads get narrower and sidewalk clearing is ignored. We cannot stress this enough!
City of Grand Rapids Winter Parking
A perfect example of when Even/Odd Parking rules were ignored. This photo was taken by resident Luci Anderson of Fire Trucks that were unable to respond quickly to a business fire (Sam's Party Store) on 2/27/2014 due to cars being parked on both sides of the street. This is a safety hazard for homeowners and business owners alike as the Emergency Vehicles trying to respond cannot pass to get to the emergency, people could possibly not get help in a timely manner and in the case of a fire, it could spread to other buildings if not contained quickly. In a worst case scenario, a person or persons could be hurt or killed because of it. There have been multiple instances in the news where this was the case.
We live in a neighborhood where most of our children walk to school, some residents walk or catch the city buses to work. Did you see a young child or adult walking in a road instead of the sidewalk? That is probably because the sidewalks are not clear or the crosswalks/corners that plows have covered have not been cleared for them to safely get across. As homeowners and renters it is our responsibility to clear those walkways.
If neighbors or businesses are not clearing their sidewalks in a timely matter please take the time to report it to the City Sidewalk Division if it has not been done within 24 hours of the precipitation event.
Per the City of Grand Rapids Website:
SNOW REMOVAL COMPLAINTS
The City requires that public sidewalks be cleared of snow and ice within 24 hours following the precipitation event by the owner of the adjacent property. Complaints regarding sidewalks that have not been cleared within this timeframe may now be submitted online through the Inspection Services Portal. To do so, go to Online Inspection Services, click on the “Enforcement” tab, then click the “Report a Code Violation” link. Complainants will need the address of the property adjacent to the sidewalk that has not been cleared, and will need to provide a description of the complaint (e.g., ”snow covered sidewalk on west side of street”). Complainants may enter their contact information, but this is not required. Once the complaint has been submitted, it will be assigned a tracking number that can be used to follow the status of the complaint.
Before submitting a complaint, please wait at least 24 hours after the precipitation event to give the property owner time to clear the sidewalk, and to allow the City to focus its inspectors on valid complaints.
THE SIDEWALK DIVISION IS LOCATED AT THE DEVELOPMENT CENTER
1120 MONROE AVE NW, ON THE 3rd FLOOR
HOURS OF OPERATION ARE 7:30AM - 4:00PM MONDAY - FRIDAY
Were you cited for non compliance?
According to the city: If you are cited for non-compliance you are given 48 hours to clear the sidewalk. After 48 hours a re-inspection is conducted; if the sidewalk remains in violation of the City Ordinance your sidewalk will be plowed by a contractor, and you will be responsible for the charges associated with clearing the sidewalk. An administrative fee of $95, plus $25 per quarter hour labor for snow and ice abatement will charged to the property owner.
Fire Hydrants in the Winter
This picture was sent to the West Grand Neighborhood Organization's Facebook page by a GRFD firefighter with a message:
"Please shovel your street's fire hydrant out. Our fire trucks have about two minutes worth of water aboard. We need quick access to a hydrant to stop a fire.
This photo is exactly how we would like to see them shoveled.
You never now when your house might need it."
On the Grand Rapids Fire Department Facebook page they are asking for your help to keep them clear and visible by clearing a 3-foot area around a hydrant in your area, every second counts in a house fire!
City View Church is hosting their Trunk-Or-Treat this year!
Feel free to join in the fun and decorate your cars and dress up if you want to hand out candy.
Remember to keep it family friendly!
We look forward to seeing families stop by for treats!
For more information, please check out the event on Facebook at: City View Church Trunk-Or-Treat on Facebook
See also our event Calendar at WGNO Calendar
Need Ideas for decorating your car? Check out this link: Ideas for decorating your cars for the event: http://www.thedatingdivas.com/kids-korner/trunk-or-treat-ideas/
We continually strive to update our website calendar for community events if we get word of something upcoming. Usually our Facebook page is the most updated for events as we have many community members that post the information to our page, we try to get them all into our calendar for you to see them. If you see an event that you think should be posted on our calendar feel free to let us know! Thank you for your time!
Added today (Check our calendar for details):
Free Paper Shredding Event
GRFD Community Day
Hello West Grand Neighbors!
Even though you cannot see it yet we are working on many things for our website and other endeavors. Slowly we have been adding new things to this website to make it easier for you to find the information your need. Polls have been added, more descriptions in the Programs section have also been added. Some of the stuff we are working on is also not visible on this site, but are being posted to our Facebook page. We are also working on an information (welcome) packet for new members (Also not visible to you). A few things with that have had to be reworked so it is not ready yet, as we have not done one in recent years and our volunteer who is working on it is also making it digitized for people that would rather not have to bring more papers home and just want to view it online. Not only with this save with paper and ink costs for us as an organization so we can put that money into other important things, but it will also give some of you a little less clutter in your lives. Secondly, we have not done a welcome packet in recent years but have always and will continue to have information available on this website or at our office. You are welcome to come in and we will give you the information you are looking for, or you can check out the site to see if we have it online. If you have gotten a membership recently, just remember you won't see a welcome packet yet because of it still being put together. All of these things will take some time to complete, especially when people are helping in their free time. Remember our volunteers also work and have families, which as you know is a full time job. If you have questions you can message us on Facebook, email or call us! We will do our best to answer them.
A volunteer is helping us with this so please be patient as the changes and new things roll out. Summer is always a busy time of year for us and there is a lot of events going on (You can view them on our Facebook events page and also on our calendar on this site). A lot of planning and volunteers make this happen for our community.
We have gotten some feedback about the lack of information available to some of you on Facebook. Information is available and has been posted as we get it, but Facebook has settings that make it so you do not see ALL posts from a page you have liked UNLESS you have interacted with that particular page every so often. Interactions like commenting or "liking" a post. When you like our Facebook page you can choose on the "Like" tab "Get Notifications" it should help somewhat if you do that, but remember that you still have to interact with our Facebook page in order to get more of the posts from it. It is a Facebook thing, not an issue we can fix. Also, any information posted to Facebook about WGNO programs is contained on this website if it involves events/programs or even contacting us.
Thank you for your patience and your support! We look forward to hearing from you!