By Greg Farnham
Progress continued at the end of 2011 to establish a recreation Rock River Water Trail and a scenic and historic Rock River Route.
We had a wonderful opportunity Dec. 9 to present the Rock River Trail Initiative (RRTI) to key civic and community stakeholders from Sterling, Rock Falls and Dixon, Illinois and Lee, Whiteside and Henry counties. We appreciate the cooperation of the Sterling city government to organize the information meeting in the city hall. We estimate the number of people in attendance was about 50. Sterling mayor Skip Lee, Rock Falls Mayor David Blanton and Illinois State Sen. Tim Bivins (R-45th) offered comments of support for the trail initiative.
Other RRTI council members who were able to join us in Sterling included Carles Brown of Henry County, Erin Folk and Bob Vogl of Ogle County and John Thompson of Lee County, who attended on behalf of council member Debbie Thompson.
We also used the opportunity to share the podium with Gary Wagle, president of Friends of the Hennepin Canal, and listen to his informative review of the restoration efforts of the canal. We had the pleasure of meeting Walker Johnson and associates of Johnson Lasky Architects of Chicago, which is engaged in much of the development work on the Hennepin Canal and Guard Lock gate in Rock Falls.
Many key synergies exist between the Rock River and Hennepin projects, and mutual reinforcement of each is important.
We were pleased that Dick Westfall, Greenways and Trails Section manager of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, was part of the presentation. Dick emphasized the importance of developing local support of river trail opportunities for the project to be successful. He also pointed out construction of smaller sections of many trails preceded each finalized trail.
Dec. 21, the third public information meeting was held at the Janesville Municipal Building, Janesville, Wisconsin. Representatives of the townships of Fulton and Rock attended the meeting and offered important suggestions to complete highway selection for the Rock River Route in Rock County. Also on the 21st, a meeting was held with Friends of Riverside Park, Janesville. The Friends group is enthusiastic, well-informed and committed to improving Riverside Park and have it play an important role as a key recreation spot along the Rock River Water Trail.
Members of the trail initiative council have begun work on the preliminary Rock River Water Trail plan and map. As a first step, an inventory of existing river access sites is being developed for river locations in each of the 11 counties in Illinois and Wisconsin.
We’ve had preliminary discussions with Executive Director of the League of Illinois Bicyclists Ed Barsotti about incorporating certain on-road bike trails into the Rock River road route. A meeting will be planned for county engineers of the six Illinois counties and other stakeholders to select highways for the road route. If you have ideas for the route and would like to participate in the meeting, please e-mail or telephone Frank Schier.
In Wisconsin, we’re working with municipalities on completing the river road routes through the five counties. Maps will be distributed to local government and stakeholders for review.
During December, we received support letters and resolutions from Dave Behl of the Sinissippi Ski Club in Hustisford, Wisconsin; Jerry Snodgrass, chairman of Henry County Soil & Water Conservation District; Christi Rhea and Debra Carey of the Dixon Park District of Dixon, Illinois; Zack Baker of the Village Board of Rockton, Illinois; and Frank Masterman and Stephen Rypkema of Rock River Sweep.org.
Debbie Thompson, trail initiative council member in Dixon, Illinois, reported that support letters will be forthcoming from the City of Dixon and Lee County.
During January, we will travel to Springfield, Illinois, to meet with the Illinois Greenways and Trails Council and the Illinois DNR, and then to Rock Island for an information meeting with key stakeholders and organizations.
We appreciate everyone’s enthusiasm and support!
If you have questions, comments and recommendations, please let us know.
Founder and Coordinator
From the Jan. 11-17, 2012, issue