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1.30.20 – Club News

The Rotary Club of Downtown Grand Rapids gathered at noon at the University Club for its regular meeting. President Neil Marchand called this meeting to order at noon by welcoming everyone and announcing the line-up of events and future speakers for the Club:
• Feb. 6th – Club 77 @ Emmanuel Hospice, hosted by Sara Lowe and Heather Duffy – RSVP by Feb. 2nd.
• Feb. 13th – Marge Palmerlee, Executive Director, Degage’ Ministries @ Degage’ Ministries – RSVP by Feb. 7th.
• Feb. 20th – Annual Community Engagement SASy Project @ University Club

President Neil invited Jason Webb to lead us in our song for today, “Here Comes the Sun”, followed by the invocation by Gerilyn May.

Following lunch, Neil invited Eunice Lopez-Martin to introduce guests and visiting Rotarians, and then invited Bill Buchanan to introduce our Interact members with us today from Grand Rapids Christian High School: Pieter Boer, Hannah Feng, Luc Hascall, and Lydia Pink. Each made a self-introduction and told us a bit about their current activities, as well as plans for college after graduation.

Neil invited Sheri Fazleabas to update the Club on the activities of the World Community Service Committee, and she presented information related to two upcoming projects: the first is a service project in Sri Lanka for the benefit of mentally-challenged children there; and the second is a ramp-build at two Grand Rapids locations, spearheaded by Christine Lindeman. For the ramp-build, be sure to register by February 17.

President Marchand invited Dr. Jackie Taylor to the podium to introduce today’s speaker, Steve Heacock, from Grand Rapids Whitewater. Jackie spoke of Steve’s service to area in many capacities, such as Spectrum Health, Priority Health, Grand Action, Millennium Park, and more. He is a graduate of both the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, where he is also a Distinguished Alumnus.

Steve began his remarks with a short video briefly describing the opportunities of returning the Grand River to its natural state, with rapids. This is an act of stewardship in taking care of a river that defines Grand Rapids. How are we going to leave it for future generations?

The positive impacts of the return of the rapids are many: improved ecology, economic and social benefits from development and tourism along the river, connecting the east and west sides of the river more strongly, providing a transformative effect on the energy of downtown, improved habitat and water quality, public safety improvements, opportunities for City Kids, attraction and retention of talent to west Michigan, and a solid economic return on investment. The vision is to return two miles of the river to as natural a condition as possible. A return to its natural state will allow the return of significant fish species to the river, such as sturgeon, walleye, and bass.
The Anderson Economic Group performed a study estimating that there would be a $15-$19 million impact per year from this endeavor, coming from increased tourism, river development, and increased property values along the river.

The regulatory process to do this project is not easy – 7 regulatory agencies are needed to give approval for permitting of any construction. With an estimated project budget of about $45 million, only about $6 million is yet to be raised, thanks to the contributions of local foundations, private giving, and State and Federal funding sources.

Phase 1 of the project is redevelopment from Bridge Street to the Fulton Street Bridge, including instream habitat improvements, removal of four small dams and the placement of rocks/boulders to improve habitat and enhance recreational opportunities. Phase 2 includes public safety and flood control improvements, Sea Lamprey control, fish passage, and recreational opportunities. Phase 3 will be the redevelopment of the river from the Sixth Street bridge to I-196, including removal of the Sixth Street Dam, enhanced recreational opportunities, and restructuring the river channel to provide increased habitat and improved fish passage. The existing Fish Ladder will remain.

Following warm applause and a brief time of Q and A, President Neil presented him with a certificate saying that a water filter has been donated in his name to a family in Nicaragua. He then rang the Rotary bell to adjourn the meeting.

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