City completes stormwater project


The Grand Rapids Environmental Services Department recently completed a stormwater project at Richmond Park. The project, on the city’s northwest side, improves water quality, reduces flooding and preserves a natural pond.

Richmond Park is nestled between the Alpine Center and West Grand neighborhoods. It’s known for its location, size and pool, and it’s home to the annual WinterWest celebration. The $350,000 project was financed from the city’s capital improvement fund and was completed in four months.

Hubbell Roth & Clark Inc. in Grand Rapids served as engineering consultant, and Quantum Construction served as the general contractor.

The park was selected as a pilot for the city’s first “daylighting” project as part of its Green Grand Rapids Master Plan update. 

The Green Grand Rapids initiative is an update to the city’s 2002 Master Plan, which focuses on the importance of green infrastructure, sustainability and quality of life.

Daylighting is the process of opening up underground pipes, allowing water to flow more like a stream and mimicking natural conditions. 

“When we daylight, we open a pipe, converting it to a more natural above-ground channel and allowing stormwater to infiltrate and get to the groundwater more slowly,” said Carrie Rivette, wastewater/stormwater manager for the city of Grand Rapids. “We’ll still have water feeding the pond. However, infiltration is important in that it helps prevent flooding and it naturally cleans up the water even more.”

At an October summit of the Michigan Infrastructure Council, Rivette told the Business Journal that Grand Rapids is within inches of record rainfall in 2019, and the city’s conventional stormwater system has faced difficulty in keeping up with the rise in the intensity and frequency of rain.

Rivette said, within a couple of hours, the city’s stormwater system would receive the same amount of rain it would usually take in 24 hours.

Rivette added the Richmond Park project was important because it allowed the environmental services department to accomplish some very significant goals: improve the quality of the pond, naturalize the banks and provide more natural habitat by removing existing concrete and allowing for more natural fish passage.

Two other results of the project involved public safety and education.

“The deteriorating conditions of the pipes posed a threat of sinkholes in the park,” Rivette said. “I can see how the success of this project will allow us to teach children about the importance of restoring a natural water passageway that helps not just the pond but the surrounding environment.”

Rivette added the city plans to implement another daylighting project in The Highlands, a former golf course in Grand Rapids. The Land Conservancy of West Michigan and the Blandford Nature Center purchased the 121-acre property in 2017 and have the long-term goal of transforming the property into a natural area for recreation and education.

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