Rock River Trail: Free oak trees!

Staff report

Beginning Wednesday, April 13, representatives of the Rock River Trail Initiative will drop off free oak trees for parks, homes, farms and businesses along the 285 miles of the Rock River, beginning in Rock Island County.

The trail initiative began in February 2010 and held the first meeting in history of all 33 municipalities and 10 counties on the mainstream of the Rock River April 16, 2010, in Rockford.

“Our second annual conference will be April 28 here at Rockford’s Clock tower Resort and Conference Center,” said the trail’s founder, Frank Schier. “And these trees are a gift or calling card to introduce all of our neighbors to the trail with long-lasting elements of our environment—oak trees.

“I’m really excited about the trip. This unusual journey will be fun, and I’m going to get to meet in person a fine group of folks who have been very, very helpful by phone.”

The main goal of the Rock River Trail Initiative, whose parent organization is the 501 (c)(3) Friends of the Rock, is to found a National Scenic, Recreational and Historic Trail along the 285 miles of the Rock River, from its source above the Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin to its mouth at the Quad Cities in Illinois.

Eco-tourism and the resulting economic development and jobs will reinforce the goals of protecting and improving the water quality and general environment along the Rock River.

Through the Quad Cities Waterkeeper Art Norris (, Chad Pregracke, president of Living Lands and Waters’ One Million Trees program, has donated 10,000 trees to the Rock River Trail Initiative, to be distributed to all 11 counties along the Rock River.

At the Feb. 3 Rock River Trail national and state legislative briefing in Rockford, Pregracke liked what he heard about the Rock River Trail Initiative so much he increased his initial offering of 5,000 trees to 10,000.

The trees will be bur oak, swamp oak, white oak, and red oak. Each sapling is 2 to 4 feet long, rooted. The trees will be delivered to the 11 counties of the Rock River Trail.

Tentatively, the trees will be distributed in Rock Island, Henry and  Whiteside counties April 13; Lee, Ogle, Winnebago, Rock and Dane counties April 14; and Jefferson, Dodge and Fond du Lac counties April 15. Depending on the temperature, the delivery may be more prompt.

With the only caveat being the trees must be planted within sight of the Rock River, each of the 11 counties will get 910 trees. Half, or 455, of the trees are slated for the public sector: city, county, state and national parks, preserves or conservation areas. The other 455 trees are slated for commercial businesses and residences along the Rock River.

This is also an invitation for the citizens, tourism-oriented businesses, elected officials and naturalists of your area to “Meet the Neighbors, Re-Discovering the Rock River: an exploration, inventory, assessment and declaration of the Rock River Trail” April  28 at the Clock Tower Resort and Conference Center in Rockford.

Yes, the Rock River Trail is being built, and many will be surprised how much of it already exists! Please join your river neighbors for a discussion of marketing and improving our environment! For more information, go to

Many thanks to every official and citizens’ group and all their staffs that have helped and will help with this project. Special thanks to Warren Green, branch rental manager of Penske Truck Rentals in Rockford, who has donated an 8,000-pound capacity truck for the pick-up and delivery of the oak trees. For more information, go to

Special thanks to the City of Rockford and Mayor Lawrence J. Morrissey for the donation of $500 for fuel costs.

Local distribution contacts

For Ogle County, contact Byron Forest Preserve Executive Director Todd Tucker, 7993 N. River Road Byron, IL 61010-9533, Distribution TBA. Phone  (815) 234-8535.

For Winnebago County, contact Rockford Park District Manager Horticulturalist for Parks Dan Erwin. Distribution of the trees will be Saturday, April 16, 2011, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Riverview Ice House and Trolley Station, 324 & 302 N. Madison. Phone (815) 987-1661.

For Rock County, contact Thomas Sweeney, County Conservationist, USDA – Service Center, 440 N US Highway 14, Janesville, WI  53546, located in the USDA Service Center on Highway 14, east of Janesville. Distribution TBA. Phone (608) 754-6617, ext. 115.
Watch and for distribution updates.

From the April 6-12, 2011 issue

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