Rock River Trail Initiative: November 2011 update

Rock River Trail Initiative: November 2011 update

By Greg Farnham
RRTI Coordinator

We are pleased to report good progress during November toward the objectives of establishing a recreational Rock River Water Trail and a scenic and historic Rock River Route.

The Rock River Trail Initiative (RTTI) Council was established and held its first meeting Nov. 4 at the beautiful offices of Vision Beloit. Information about the council is available on the website, The next meeting will be Feb. 3, 2012, also in Beloit, Wis.

In early November, the common councils of Beloit, Janesville and Mayville adopted resolutions of support for the trail initiative. With this action, we now have documents of support from the five Wisconsin counties through which the Rock River flows (Fond du Lac, Dodge, Jefferson, Dane and Rock), all 13 cities and villages along the river in Wisconsin, the lake management districts for Lake Sinissippi and Lake Koshkonong, and key community, conservation and tourism organizations. We believe this is quite a significant milestone that echoes the commonality we all share with the wonderful natural resource that flows through our river communities.

In Illinois, the Rockford City Council passed a resolution of support for the trail initiative Nov. 21. Near the stateline, Rockton Village Board members Zach Baker and Tricia Davey have introduced a resolution of support for the RRTI at the committee level. Further downstream, efforts are under way for an informational meeting on the trail initiative in Sterling, Ill. Dec. 9 with key civic and community leaders of Lee, Whiteside and Henry counties. We see exciting areas of cooperation with Friends of the Hennepin Canal and look forward to meeting them and representatives of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in Sterling. And, we are working with Sally Heffernan of the City of Rock Island and the River Action folks to organize an informational meeting in Rock Island in January. We look forward to the participation and contributions of the fine people and organizations of these beautiful Rock River communities.

The Wisconsin Department of Tourism awarded a grant to the Jefferson County Economic Development Consortium for brand identity, marketing and promotion of an enhanced tourism program. The award cited two new initiatives for the county that are expected to play a key role in the development effort. One of the new initiatives is the Rock River Trail Initiative.

Two public information meetings have been held in Wisconsin to receive input on the proposed recreation water trail and scenic and historic river route. A third public meeting will be held in Rock County, probably in December.

Work continues on planning the Rock River Water Trail. We have information from Illinois and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources, the National Park Service, OpenLands of Northeastern Illinois and other sources to assist in developing the water trail plan and map. We will inventory existing water trail facilities, including access points, boat launches, dams, camping sites and parks, 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.

Certain sections of the proposed Scenic and Historic Rock River Route are established, while designation of roads in other sections is in process. 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! 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 too challenging to the weekend traveler. We also are designing the route so far as is practicable to pass through our river communities and provide the road traveler an experience with the cultural heritage, local flavor and ambiance of each community.

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

Greg Farnham, coordinator, Juneau, Wis., (920) 386-2450,

Frank Schier, Founder and Coordinator, Rockford, Ill., (815) 964-9767,

Dave Druen, coordinator, Sterling, Ill., (815) 716-3366,