Rock River Trail Initiative: An update for October 2011

Rock River Trail Initiative: An update for October 2011

By Greg Farnham
RRTI Coordinator
and Frank Schier
RTTI Founder and Coordinator and Editor & Publisher of The Rock River Times

We appreciate everyone’s enthusiasm and cooperation and are pleased to report good progress during September toward the objectives of establishing a recreation Rock River Water Trail and a scenic and historic Rock River Route.

In Wisconsin, presentations of the trail initiative were made to Watertown Parks, Forestry and Recreation Committee; City Councils of Jefferson and Watertown; Village Boards of Theresa and Johnson Creek; Jefferson County Board of Health; Village of Kekoskee; and City of Janesville Leisure Services Advisory Committee.

We’d like to thank Jefferson County supervisor Augie Teitz, Jefferson city administrator Tim Freitag, alderman Dan Olejniczak and mayor Ron Krueger of Watertown, Theresa village president George Marsh, Johnson Creek village administrator Mark Johnsrud, Jefferson County health officer Gail Scott and John McKenzie of Jefferson County board of health, Kekoskee village president Steve Dethardt and parks director Tom Presny and management assistant Rebecca Smith of Janesville for their interest and support of the trail initiative.

We also had the pleasure of working with Ramona Flanigan, city administrator of Edgerton, and received a resolution of support from the city council.

In Illinois, presentations were made to the Ogle County Board and the Oregon Park District, and we want to thank Ogle County Board chair James Barnes and Oregon Park District recreation superintendent Erin Folk for their support and encouragement. Meetings have been scheduled with civic and community development groups in Sterling/Rock Falls and Dixon. Dave Druen of Rock Falls is leading efforts to collaborate with supporters of the Hennepin Canal State Trail to revitalize the riverfront by building on the unique cultural heritage assets of the Hennepin Feeder Canal and Rock River. We are also working with Andrew Brachman of Henry County Soil & Water Conservation District to appoint a county representative for the trail initiative.

We look forward to the participation and contributions of the fine people and organizations of these beautiful Rock River communities.

Work continues in planning the highway system that will comprise the scenic and historic Rock River Route in Wisconsin. Certain sections of the proposed route are well established, while designation of roads in other sections is in process. As most of you know, in many parts of Dodge, Jefferson and Rock counties, the Rock River channel meanders quite extensively over the landscape, and roadways do not run parallel with the meanders. There is a balance to achieve between a desire to showcase the scenic beauty of the river with its enticing twists and turns through pastoral farmland and natural terrain and the need to designate a road route that is relatively straightforward to sign mark and navigate and not be too challenging to the weekend traveler. A number of the highways selected for the river route use existing bike routes and are lovely to travel, whether in a car or on a bike! As the initial selection of roads is completed, we’ll distribute the preliminary plans to you for comment.

We received from Angie Tornes of National Park Service-Milwaukee several evaluation forms for water trail facilities and site inventory. We’ve asked Josh Prescher of Hustisford, who has extensive experience kayaking on the Rock River and other waterways, to review the forms with county parks directors. Once we’ve agreed on an evaluation form, we will ask all key county and municipal contacts to use it to inventory water trail facilities and access points along the entire river course. We will also work with county, municipal and community organizations to conduct a gap analysis of the water trail, identifying possible needs for future development of trail facilities. We will likely begin this effort in Dodge County, to work out the omnipresent “bugs,” and develop a format that can be mapped by the Winnebago County, IL GIS Department and handed to each of the other counties. These data will be compiled and integrated into the water trail plan for the Rock River.

We’ve asked Kurt Sampson, curator of Dodge County Historical Society Museum, to prepare a list of significant historical and cultural heritage elements within the river corridor in the county. We expect to use Kurt’s work as a template for efforts in the other 10 counties to illuminate the historic relevance of the Rock River Valley to the American experience. This information will become part of the plan for the scenic and historic Rock River Route.

Lastly, we’ve also had the pleasure of talking with Jerry Apps, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of more than 30 books on rural history and country life, about the proposed historic river route.

Our historic review has revealed two interesting items of potential interest for development of the Rock River Route. The Yellowstone Trail (begun in 1912) was the original transcontinental road route from Boston to Seattle, and the trail runs through the Village of Theresa, Dodge County. The proposed river route will intersect with the Yellowstone Trail at the bridge in Theresa. Also, a year later (1913), the Lincoln Highway was established from New York to San Francisco, and the Rock River Route will connect with it at the City of Dixon, Lee County. These are interesting elements of our cultural heritage that will intrigue and fascinate many travelers on the river route.

We are scheduling a series of public information meetings to solicit input on the proposed recreation water trail and scenic and historic river route.

Additional meetings are scheduled for October with the City of Mayville, Rock Koshkonong Lake District, Towns Association of Dodge County and communities and organizations in the lower river valley in Illinois.

The Rock River Trail Initiative Council has been finalized, and the council members and our first meeting in Beloit will be announced very soon.

As always, if you have questions, comments and recommendations please let us know.

Greg Farnham
Juneau, WI
(920) 386-2450

Frank Schier
Founder and Coordinator
Rockford, IL
(815) 670-6440