The man who was responsible for the day-to-day operation to create an urban whitewater course in the Chattahoochee River has taken a job in Michigan to do the same thing in the Grand River.
Richard Bishop, who retired as president of Uptown Columbus Inc., earlier this year, has been selected as the president and chief executive officer of Grand Rapids Whitewater, it was announced on Thursday.
A lifelong resident of the Chattahoochee Valley, Bishop said the opportunity in Grand Rapids was an opportunity he could not pass up.
“I am really looking forward to this,” Bishop said of the job, which he starts on Aug. 1. “They are in the process of restoring the Grand River into downtown Grand Rapids. It really is a grand river, and there are a lot of similarities in what we did here.”
The Chattahoochee River restoration project was fostered by John Turner, a Columbus philanthropist who pushed for nearly two decades to removed to downtown dams and create a 2.5-mile free-flowing white water run into downtown Columbus. It opened in 2013 and has been drawing thousands of rafters and kayakers to the river.
Bishop became critically involved in the process when he became president of Uptown Columbus Inc. 10 years ago. Prior to that he had been a Columbus deputy city manager and worked on the city-side of the project.
Bishop’s role in helping push the Chattahoochee River project through the regulatory and construction process was what attracted him to the Michigan organization, said Chris Muller, co-founder of Grand Rapids Whitewater.
“Richard’s river restoration experience, along with his career history serving both the public and private sectors make him an ideal candidate to lead the historic transformation of the Grand River,” Muller said in a prepared statement. “The Chattahoochee river restoration project has several similarities to the Grand River Project, and they are seeing the significant environmental, economic, and social benefits of a restored urban waterway.”
Since 2009 Grand Rapids Whitewater has been a volunteer effort led by Muller and Chip Richards.
“Hiring a full-time president/CEO will increase our capacity to manage the complexities of this project and ensure we deliver the project on time and on budget. This is the next step toward project implementation and construction,” Muller said.
Bishop retained his position as president of Uptown Whitewater LLC, the non-profit organization that managed the Chattahoochee course and worked with outfitter Whitewater Express. Bishop is relinquishing that role this week and Ross Horner, who replaced Bishop as president of Uptown Columbus, Inc. and the Business Improvement District, will become the leader of Uptown Whitewater.
Bishop has made several trips to Grand Rapids and has become familiar with the project, which is still in the design, permitting and fundraising stages.
“Back in the day, they had rapids, but during the redevelopment of downtown, they were taken away,” he said. “They don’t have the big dams like we had here. They have more smaller dams.”