Perceptions of the Red River in Grand Forks have not always been nice: It’s an adversary, a filthy waste-dumping site, a force not to be reckoned with.
Andy Magness, chairman of Ground Up Adventures, said many people in the area shy away from recreation on the Red River in part because of views like these.
But the nonprofit’s vision of an outdoor recreational facility aims to change that as water enthusiasts will be able to rent kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards from the river’s shore in downtown Grand Forks by July, when Boathouse on the Red opens.
“We hope to have a soft opening in July with preseason classes, and then full classes in August,” Magness said.
Ground Up Adventures, a local organization focused on providing outdoor activities, is mere weeks away from renting out water sports equipment to the public as the final touches wrap up on the two storage containers being converted into the boathouse.
The structure will be located on the banks of the Red River, just north of the Sorlie Bridge on DeMers Avenue, and Magness said all the water sports equipment has arrived except for the paddles.
A concrete slab has been put in place for the containers, which are being housed behind the Grand Forks Public Works Department while they undergo modifications by artist and sculptor Adam Kemp.
“I’m trying to recycle as much as possible,” Kemp said while sorting through scraps of metal material surrounding the containers.
Kemp is reconstructing the containers’ roofs to allow for skylights and additional storage areas for the outdoor recreational items. He said the rainy weather has hindered the welding projects, putting the overall project progress behind schedule by about three weeks.
“There’s plenty of room for me to add some artistic flourish to this,” Kemp said. “This is a fantastic idea and will add some use to the river.”
Kemp said the storage component should be complete by early July and hopes to have the office container finished shortly after that. Each fall, the containers will be stored and reinstalled after floodwaters recede in the spring.
Once open, Boathouse on the Red will offer classes on paddleboarding, paddleboard yoga, canoeing and kayaking. Special events, including floating picnics Aug. 24 and Sept. 14 in Lincoln Park, also are planned, Magness said.
“You can eat while on the paddleboard, kayak or canoe,” Magness said. “It’s a downriver float, so it’s a good way to hang out as a community.”
Securing a spot on the Red River required a use agreement between the nonprofit and the City of Grand Forks, which last year approved the use of city-owned land for the boathouse. A $24,000 state grant helped cover most of the costs for the boathouse.
Magness said the boathouse facility can serve as a way to change the negative attitude associated with the river.
“There will always be people who believe this, but the only way to dispel that is to get people on the river,” Kemp said. “It’s a place for the populace of the community to go and connect.”