Rock River Trail Initiative names council members and advisers

Rock River Trail Initiative names council members and advisers

A trail initiative council has been established by the Rock River Trail Initiative, a public-private partnership in Illinois and Wisconsin whose mission is to develop along the river a multi-use trail of recreational, scenic and historic interest. Frank Schier, editor and publisher of The Rock River Times, Rockford, Ill., and founder of the trail initiative, and Greg Farnham, commissioner of Lake Sinissippi Improvement District, Hustisford, Wis., serve as coordinators of the Rock River Trail Initiative.

“We are very pleased to announce the initial membership of the Rock River Trail Initiative Council and to have these talented and respected professionals join us,” said Schier. “The newly-appointed members to the council represent the 11 counties within the two-state Rock River valley.”

Representing the six Illinois counties of Winnebago, Ogle, Lee, Whiteside, Henry and Rock Island on the council are 10 residents: Webbs Norman, executive director emeritus of the City of Rockford Park District; Tom Lindblade, president of the Illinois Paddling Council; Erin Folk, superintendent of recreation, Oregon Park District; Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl of Friends of the Rock River and the Illinois Renewable Energy Association; Debbie Thompson, artist and director of The Next Picture Show Gallery; Dave Druen of Rock Falls Canal Trail Blazer Volunteers; Dorothy and Carles Brown of Natural Area Guardians; and Chad Pregracke of Living Lands & Waters.

Seven Wisconsin residents represent the trail initiative in the five counties of Fond du Lac, Dodge, Jefferson, Dane and Rock: Dick Flynn, director of public works, City of Waupun; Bill Ehlenbeck, parks manager, Dodge County Land Resources and Parks Department; Joe Nehmer, director of Jefferson County Parks Department; David Schreiber, principal of Schreiber/Anderson Associates; Paul Benjamin, director of the Rock River Coalition; Joleen Stinson, community coordinator of Rock County Parks Division; and Sheila De Forest, city councilor, City of Beloit.

“The trail initiative has also appointed advisers to help our efforts to establish a recreation water trail and a scenic and historic road route along the river,” offered Farnham. “These advisers provide recommendations on special issues pertaining to the water trail and road route, and we welcome their valuable input.”

Several Illinois and Wisconsin residents were named as advisors: Bernie Turner, director, Winnebago County GIS, on mapping; Josh Prescher, Lake Sinissippi Association, Hustisford, Wis., on water trails and paddling sports; Gail Scott, director, Jefferson County Health Department, on public health; Robert Soltau, metropolitan planning manager, Stateline Area Transportation Study, Beloit, on highway routes; Kurt Sampson, curator, Dodge County Historical Society, on historic route development; Gerry Luiting, deputy fire chief, Janesville Fire Department and Janesville Rock Aqua Jays, on power boat recreation sports; Brian Christianson, chairman of Rock Koshkonong Lake District on lakes and dams; and Ogle County Planning & Zoning Administrator Michael Reibel.

In addition, other parks and resource agencies provide support to the trail initiative: Rockford Park District Executive Director Tim Dimke, an Illinois member of the Mississippi River Co-ordinating Council; Joe Vanderwerff, county engineer of Winnebago County; Sam Tobias, planning/parks director of Fond du Lac County; Kevin Connors, director, Dane County Land & Water Resources Department; Brian Ramsey, director, City of Beloit Parks & Leisure Services; Tom Presny, director, City of Janesville Parks; and Tom Checkai, director, City of Watertown Park, Recreation and Forestry Department.

“We look forward to the contributions of the new council members and advisers to establish policy and procedures for the trail initiative and to help guide development of the water trail and road route,” said Schier. “This is an exciting opportunity for all of us to do something positive for our neighbors along the Rock River and for the economy, environment and quality of life in the river valley.”

Schier and Farnham also indicated that the council will work closely with representatives of the Illinois and Wisconsin departments of Natural Resources and the Milwaukee and Chicago offices of the National Park Service on development of the recreation water trail, and with other state, county and municipal agencies on establishment of the scenic and historic river route.

The Rock River Trail Initiative was begun in 2010 in Rockford and Winnebago and Ogle counties, Illinois, and was joined by public and private partners in Wisconsin in 2011.

The mission of the initiative is to establish and interpret a Rock River Water Trail along the 300-mile river course from the headwaters in Fond du Lac and Dodge counties, Wisconsin, to the Mississippi River at Rock Island, Illinois, and a separate Rock River Route on roads within the river corridor to provide access for all to the natural resources, recreational opportunities, scenic beauty and historic and cultural assets of the Rock River Valley.