5,000 free oak trees to be distributed by Rock River Trail Initiative

Celebrate Arbor Day by planting a free oak tree. For the seventh year in a row, the Rock River Trail Initiative (RRTI) will distribute 5,000 trees along the Rock River corridor April 18-21, 2017. Chad Pregracke, president of Living Lands and Waters’ One Million Trees program, has donated 65,000 trees to the Rock River Trail Initiative and our river over the last seven years.

The late Frank Schier, Founder of the RRTI, was a big proponent of the tree planting program and was personally involved in the distribution of the trees in past years.

See below for distribution information.


The Rock River Trail Initiative established a National Water Trail along the 320 miles of the Rock River, from its source above the Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin to its mouth at the Quad Cities in Illinois. This was achieved March 11, 2013, when Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior Ken Salazar and U.S. National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis made the designation including the Rock River Trail in the National Water Trail System. The Rock River Water Trail was the 10th trail in the nation to achieve such a distinction.

Also in 2013, the Wisconsin and Illinois state legislatures designated the Rock River Trail Scenic and Historic Route on roads adjacent to the Rock River’s course in both states.

The RRTI has recently completed q-sheets (turn-by-turn directions) and maps for a bike route and a hiking route along the Rock River. For all directions and maps go to www.rockrivertrail.com and click on the icon/trail sign for National Water Trail, Bike Route, Hiking Route or Scenic and Historic Route.

Enjoy traveling our “River of the Heartland,” and help us with our ultimate and ambitious goal of making the Rock River the cleanest tributary to the Mississippi. Planting native oak trees helps to provide oxygen production, carbon sequestration, energy savings from shade, plus shore stabilization, filtration and habitat. All these will help to improve this beautiful watershed.

According to availability, each county will receive bur oak and swamp oak saplings. Each sapling is 1 to 2 feet long and bare-rooted. The trees will be distributed in Rock Island, Henry, Whiteside, Lee, Ogle and Winnebago counties in Illinois, and Rock, Dane and Jefferson counties in Wisconsin. Each county will have its own distribution method.

The only caveat is the trees should be planted within sight of the Rock River or near the mouth of one of its tributaries. Trees are available for the public sector: city, county, state, parks, preserves and conservation areas, and for private individuals on farms, residences and businesses along the Rock River—all free of charge.

Many thanks to all of the great folks who have helped so much, especially Chad Pregracke and Monique Dykman of Living Lands and Waters, and Steve Rypkema of Ogle County.

In Rock Island County contact the Rock Island County RRTI Council Member Dean Mathias, 309-737-8429, e-mail mathiasdeandeb@peoplepc.com.

For Henry County contact Dorothy and Carles Brown of the Natural Area Guardians, 309-441-5314 or cardor@geneseo.net.

For Whiteside County contact Whiteside County Soil and Water Conservation District Resource Conservationist Dave Harrison, USDA Bldg., 16255 Liberty St., Morrison, IL, 815-772-2124 (Ext.3).

For Lee County contact Dixon Park Dist. Executive Director Deb Carey; 804 Palmyra Ave., 815-284-3306.

For Ogle County contact Byron Forest Preserve District, 7993 N. River Road, Byron, IL, 815-234-8535; or Rock River Trail Initiative council member Bob Vogl, 815-732-7332; or Steve Rypkema of Ogle County Solid Waste Management Dept., 909 Pines Rd., Oregon, IL, 815-732-4020 or srypkema@oglecounty.org.

For Winnebago County distribution of the trees will be made by the Rockford Park District. Contact Nathan Hill of the district at 815-289-9901.

For Rock County contact Rock County Land Conservation Department Senior Conservation Specialist Norm Tadt; USDA Service Center, 440 N. U.S. Highway 14, Janesville, WI, 608-754-6617 x117; or Rock River Trail Initiative Council member Dave Hoffman, Rock County Parks at 608-757-5473.

In Dane County the distribution point will be the offices of Dane County Land and Water Resources Department, 1 Fen Oak Court, Room 208, Madison, WI; Contact Erika Hotchkiss by at 608-224-3762 or e-mail Hotchkiss.Erika@countyofdane.com.

For Jefferson County contact Jefferson County Parks Department Director Joe Nehmer, phone 920 674-7260 or Parks Program Assistant Mary Nimm at 920-674-7452 or maryn@jeffersoncountywi.gov.