Grand Rapids Water Protectors (GRWP) is a local organization focused on public education and action around the health of our waterways. We connected with Brandy Reyes, the vice president of the organization, to talk about the importance of GRWP and its connection with the Grand River.
Brandy: Grand Rapids Water protectors is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting water through awareness, education and direct action. Our main goal is to raise awareness of the human impact on water and the natural world. It is all too easy for the common person living in Grand Rapids to become disconnected from nature, even though Grand Rapids is one big watershed that is vital to the creeks, rivers and Lake Michigan.
One of the ways we make connections is through park and river clean-ups around the city and lakeshore. Cleaning up trash in rivers that lead to our drinking water source, Lake Michigan, creates an insight into the water issues that our local environment faces.
Brandy: GRWP has been active since 2017. In 2016, the water protectors movement began in Standing Rock, when indigenous communities protested the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline that was invading their sacred, ancestral lands and polluting their natural resources.
The movement inspired people to look more closely into local and statewide water quality issues across the country. In Michigan, water protectors united to protest the aging, damaged oil pipeline, Line 5, in the Straits of Mackinac, as well as the Flint water crisis and PFAS contamination.
Growing up along the lakeshore, I have always felt very connected with the waters of Lake Michigan. Being in nature, near the water, has been my haven of peace. The water protectors inspired me to do more when I learned how much of a water crisis we are actually in. Water is life, we all have to advocate and protect it.
Brandy: The GRWP is hosting clean-ups this May through September all around Grand Rapids and the lakeshore. Once a month, we will host both a clean-up in a Grand Rapids park near the Grand River or Plaster Creek, as well as host a beach clean-up at various beaches.
All of the locations and event dates are listed on our Facebook page. Everyone is welcome to join, we encourage kids too, it is always a fun time! Any inquiry can be answered through Facebook or by phone at 616.606.8323.
Brandy: As the central waterway in our hometown of Grand Rapids, the Grand River represents the heart of our mission. It is home to a diversity of wildlife vital to the balance of our ecosystem and the importance of its health cannot be overstated both for the human and nonhuman residents of our city.
From the small tributary creeks and streams which feed it, to its final destination at the shore of Lake Michigan, the Grand River’s impact is paramount to all of us. Along with the clean-ups our group has organized over the years, cleaning the low lying banks of the river and its tributaries, where all too often the refuse of our city collects, the GRWP strives to raise awareness among residents about steps we can all take to improve the waters cleanliness and habitat viability for its plant and animal residents.
Learn more about GRWP and get involved in clean-up events at their Facebook page.