Rock River, nice neighbors

On the Rock River Trail: Mac "Spotted Horse" MacVenn is the bowman pictured here heading south, from Oregon to Grand Detour on Saturday, April 17, with Severson Dells' Don Miller guiding the group downstrem. Photo by Frank Schier

By Frank Schier
Editor & Publisher

Meeting around water brings special blessings. All creation surrounds—air clouds float; wind whispers away; grasses, bushes, trees and buildings all weave the shore; little and big life crawls, ambles, swirls and soars, as earth and rock melt into current carrying one spark to another. The brightest spark glows as thanks.

Many sparks gleamed at the Clock Tower Resort & Conference Center and CoCo Key Water Resort last Friday, April 16, for the Creating the Rock River Trail Conference. There, for the first time in history, our neighbors from the 10 counties and many cities of the Rock River gathered to meet each other.

At this first meeting on very short notice, 72 people learned what was valued up and down the river from the folks who live on our mutual shores. They were very nice and very informative. The excitement, the intensity of the interest, filled the Figgs Café space of the Clock Tower.

This paper’s banner and an antique banner (provided by our PowerPoint wizard Scott Lewandowski, manager of Veterans’ Memorial Hall) were suspended above the hall’s reflecting pool. The old banner, seven-paneled, gold-fringed, with a gold eagle, and red, white and blue, proclaimed, “Welcome Visitors.”

Some of our visitors were: David L. Spiegelberg provided talking points and trail suggestions from Fond du Lac County; Mayor Dale Oppermann represented the City of Jefferson, Wis.; Jefferson County Board member Steve Kline represented Jefferson and Dodge counties; Brian Ramsey and Dave Botts represented  the City of Beloit, Wis.; Therese Oldenberg represented Rock County; Village Board member Tricia Davey represented the Village of Rockton; Rockford Convention & Vistor’s Bureau Kristina DeCoster represented Winnebago County; Diane Bausman represented Ogle, Lee and Whiteside counties; Vicky Turner represented Dixon Tourism Bureau; Quad Cities Water Keeper Art Norris represented Henry and Rock Island counties. Before our Saturday canoe trip, Marcia Heuer represented the Oregon Chamber of Commerce, and Amy Trimble represented Oregon Trail  Day Festival, with Jan Prose of T.J.’s Bait/Tackle and Canoe Rentals launching and welcoming us all.

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey and Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen did a great job of welcoming our visitors and championing the Rock River Trail at the conference.

We all should be very grateful for the marvelous commitment by the Rockford Park District, the city and county for their share time in WinGIS, the Winnebago County Geographic Information System, to produce the 11 large format maps of each of the 10 counties that host the Rock River. Most impressive was the map of the entire river in both Wisconsin and Illinois. As far as I know, this is the most complete mapping effort of the river in modern times.

And this is just the beginning. A 14-page book layout of the Rock’s course through Winnebago County was also created. Each page represents 2 miles. Our goal is to produce a book for each county on the river. For the entire river and its 285 miles, that book will be 151 pages. As we inventory the assets of each county and place the appropriate icons on these maps, those who enjoy our beautiful river on a clearly-marked trail will thank us as well. Another point was made that many folks have, do and will drive both sides of our scenic river—so now the motto is: “The Rock River Trail: Drive it! Bike it! Hike it! Kayak it! Canoe it!”

For providing this first format of the trail, everyone should particularly thank the director of WinGIS, Mr. Burnie Turner and his staff. In less than a week, he and his staff produced all the maps. Burnie and his staff are amazing. Who says government always moves slowly? From the OK from Chairman Christiansen, the Rockford Park District and the City of Rockford, Burnie and his folks just proved government can “move it” with supreme quality. Director Turner of WinGIS and his staff received a standing ovation!

Rockford Park District Deputy Director of Operations Ron Butler and Winnebago County Forest Preserve District Deputy Director Tom Kalousek presented 30 new campsites in Winnebago County! More on that next week. Saturday, Ogle County Board Chairman Ed Rice committed his GIS system time to providing a map and said he would help to approach the City of Oregon for eight campsites on the east side of the river above the dam! We all thank you! Thank you!

I, personally, thank all the staff of The Rock River Times, particularly our lead sales representative, Jody Marshall, and her fiancé, Jeff Propp. Jody has been my right hand for this project, and Jeff hauled and unloaded boxes, maps, easels, banners and ran many errands for everyone, as did volunteers Mac “Spotted Horse” and Juanita “White Feather” MacVenn, Mike “Bear” Auker, Richard Kanak, Alice Nichols, River District Association Executive Director Kim Wheeler-Johnsen and Board President Emily Hartzog, BlackHawk Bicycle Club’s Fred Kennerly and Steve Holten, University of Illinois Extension’s Andy Hazzard, and Nels Akerlund for his donation of his book, Our Rock River.

Team Clock Tower was also amazing. We recommend the conference center to anyone thinking of holding any kind of event. Many thanks to Mike Barr,  Wendi Howard, Christine Lunz, Dax McDonald, Arnie Pearse and  General Manager Dwight Hopfauf. What a professional and great bunch of folks!

Go to for some great articles by the daily paper and a YouTube video of the Saturday canoe trip. Watch the site for more trail news!

From the April 21-27, 2010 issue

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