New campsites and website features unveiled for the Rock River Trail; TRRT and County in Environmental Hall of Fame
By Frank Schier
Editor & Publisher
What a week for the Rock River and its tributaries in Winnebago County and beyond! Starting last Thursday and Friday, July 22 and 23, it began to RAIN. The Pecatonica River Cleanup was canceled for Saturday, July 24, but a fund-raising dinner was still held at the Rock Hollow Conservation Club for the United Sportsmen’s Youth Foundation outside Freeport. Congrats to Brendan and Mary Walsh’s family and crew for providing a good time during trying times, and lending out their equipment and boats to those in need. That cleanup has been rescheduled for the Labor Day weekend.
With massive flooding from Milwaukee to Pearl City, as all the Wisconsin area water traveled down various tributaries, the Pecatonica River is still rising as of this writing July 27, and the Rock River is legally closed. Roads in Shirland were closed, as was at least one lane of Route 20 near the Route 75 exit. Brendan Walsh said the Pecatonica was moving much too fast and up to the bottom of too many bridges to risk lives of inexperienced and experienced canoeists and boaters alike.
Accordingly, the July 31 Rock River Sweep for the entire Rock River is postponed. In Winnebago County, the Rock River Sweep is tentatively rescheduled for Saturday, Aug. 14, weather- and water-permitting. Go to http://rockriverhomeowners.org and http://www.illinoispaddling.org for local updates.
Loren Floto, heading up the Rockton section of the cleanup, said his volunteers are still coordinating their calendars and watching the water, and will make an announcement next week.
“There is not one piece of trash or litter out there worth risking life or limb for,” said Frank Masterman, founder and volunteer staff member of the entire Rock RiverSweep.org. Check that website for updates on other sections of the Rock River in Illinois and Wisconsin.
Now, for some good news. July 21, 2010, at Sportscore I park here in Rockford, representatives from the Rock River Trail, Winnebago County, Rockford Park District, Winnebago County Forest Preserve District, the July 24 & 25 Pecatonica River Cleanup, the July 31 Rock River Sweep cleanup, Illinois Renewable Energy Association and the Environmental Hall of Fame, held a press conference to announce the river cleanups, which Mother Nature has since delayed, new developments on the Rock River Trail, and National Environmental Hall of Fame inductees.
The Rock River Trail is under construction as a recreational/eco-tourism destination, similar to the Appalachian Trail. The Rock River Trail runs the 285 miles of the Rock River, through 10 counties and 33 cities and villages in Illinois and Wisconsin. Winnebago County is the founding county for the trail, and is in the lead with developing its features.
Rockford Park District Deputy Director Ron Bulter announced the creation of five new campsites at Sportscore I, 1288 Elmwood Road; and five new campsites at the district’s Rock River Greenway South/Brooke Road property. Unfortunately, one of the new fire rings at the Brooke Road/ River Boulevard location had already been dug up for salvage by vandals, and will be replaced. Butler also announced five new campsites on the Kishwaukee River next to the new canoe launch at the Atwood Outdoor Educational Center.
Winnebago County Forest Preserve District Executive Director Tom Kalousek announced a new campsite and expansion of river campsites at the Hononegah Forest Preserve, 80 Hononegah Road in Rockton, as well as at Hinchliff Memorial Forest Preserve, 6770 Kishwaukee Road.
Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R) confirmed his commitment to a complete mapping of the Rock River Trail, featuring all the facets of the trail’s motto, “Drive it, Hike it, Bike it, Kayak it, Canoe it.”
Very importantly, Christiansen announced Winnebago County is going to explore with the Army Corps of Engineers the possibility of dredging the Rock River at the Roscoe Shallows and in areas below the Fordam Dam. This will help the Rock River Trail and open up other possibilities for commerce, such as river taxis from Rockton to Rockford, which Rockton Mayor Dale Adams has put forward.
As The Rock River Times Editor and Publisher and Rock River Trail Founder, I announced new features on www.rockrivertrail.com. We have just posted a safety video and four new websites for all of the 19 dams on the Rock River, with some portage recommendations. Also note, we have posted all the camping areas (20) we could find in the 10 counties of the Rock River. Please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any corrections or additions.
We have also posted Rock River water levels/floods/gauges; general Rock River Information; links to the Quad Cities Waterkeepers, Illinois Paddling Council and Illinois Renewable Energy Association; Nature Conservancy’s new poll that reveals the value of nature; as well as pertinent websites for each of the Rock River counties’ campsites and various governmental and tourist attractions. Yes, eco-tourism preserves green and brings green into our sales tax funds.
Also, National Environmental Hall of Fame presentations and inductions were made to Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen and myself by last year’s inductees, Drs. Bob and Sonia Vogl, president and vice president of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association, and members of the board of directors of Freedom Field. See the background on those inductions in our “Online Exclusives” at www.rockriver times.com. Please take a look at www.rockrivertrail.com, too.
From the July 28-Aug 3, 2010 issue