“A lot of people look at the Grand River as something to be avoided, but most communities would kill for a resource like this,” Rouss said. “There are so many bad misconceptions about it. The money that’s been invested into getting it clean has worked. It’s in really good shape — I know, I’m in it all the time.”
Rouss is an avid water sports enthusiast who leads kayak and paddleboard polo games in the river every Tuesday. He said the biggest component in trying to get as many people out on the water is educating them about it.
“With increased use comes an increased connection with it,” he said. “We want people on the river so people start caring more for it and embracing it.”
Rouss said he thinks this will create a loop of positive feedback and conservation that will lead to continual improvements for the Grand River over time. He wasn’t aware yet of the upcoming Grand American Fish Rodeo Festival planned for June 12-14 that also looks to turn the river into the focus of activities rather than a backdrop, but he was happy to learn about it.
“Anything that puts the river in a positive light is a good thing,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it now.”
The Power of Water sells and rents kayaks, paddleboards and canoes, as well as other essential water gear. Rentals are launched from the nearby dock, which Rouss said is in surprisingly good shape.
“There are all these elements in place for heavy use of the Grand River, but no one’s using it,” he said. “Our goal is to change that. We want it to be that when people think of the Grand River, they think of a place to recreate.”
Rouss grew up in Arizona, not the first place you think of when you think water sports. He moved to Lansing in 1998 when he married his wife, and worked for Summit Sports for most of that time. He’s also licensed to give lessons for a full array of watercraft.
As part of the business, Rouss also created a partnership with Michigan State University to provide lessons and will lead “learning tours” of local waterways and eventually the Great Lakes. He said he’ll provide waterway lessons on a revolving basis and plans to reach out to local groups connected with the river to forge friendly partnerships.
“The Grand River has a lot of potential,” Rouss said. “I’m here for the long haul.”
The Power of Water 420 E. Saginaw St., Lansing 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday, Thursday & Friday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; noon-4 p.m. Sunday; closed Tuesday & Wednesday (517) 484-3515, thepowerofwater.net
The Power of Water Grand Opening Week
Celebration 5-7 p.m. Thursday: River cleanup 5-7 p.m. Friday: Ribbon cutting with the Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and social gathering (ribbon cutting at 5:30 p.m.)
3-7 p.m. Saturday: Water demo with kayaks, canoes and paddleboards Noon-4 p.m. Sunday: Open house