Guest Column: The Rock River — An underappreciated local and regional natural asset

Editor’s note: The Rock River Times’ editor and publisher, Frank Schier, is founder and chairman of the Rock River Trail Initiative.

By Walter Loos
Executive Director, Be Active Outdoors, Inc.

I hope everyone has been following the recent efforts of the Rock River Trail Initiative Council to establish a multi-use trail of recreational, scenic and historical interest and significance along the 385 miles the river runs through Wisconsin and Illinois. This truly is a tremendous undertaking, and something that should have everyone’s fullest attention and support. It has only been through the council’s tireless dedication over the last couple of years that the Rock River basin has started to be seen as the local and regional natural asset that it is.

Unfortunately, for many years, the Rock River basin, along with many of our regional and national waterways, has faced its share of challenges and neglect issues. The stigma assigned to the Rock River basin has not been created by one single culprit. Rather, it is the combination of past use abuses, the failure to recognize the area as a treasured asset, and a range of current-day naivety that has helped paint an unflattering picture of the Rock River. The council is well on its way of meeting one of its primary objectives of establishing the Rock River Water Trail and achieving designation as a state and national recreation water trail.

As one of the trail’s ongoing advocates, Be Active Outdoors shares the council’s vision of turning the Rock River basin into a state and national recreation trail. Be Active Outdoors aims to be a catalyst to encouraging individuals within our region to seek outdoor activities. We promote outdoor recreation and active lifestyles by endorsing the health and wellness aspect of outdoor activity. We work with existing organizations in the region and utilize established resources to bring active groups of people together, build accessibility to the outdoors, and generate a broader community of enthusiasts.

One of the primary ways Be Active Outdoors is helping the council’s efforts to develop the Rock River basin into a local and regional recreational playground is through our Amped Up Adventure Race Series, which is community-based and designed to inspire a deeper level of commitment to adopting healthier lifestyles through outdoor activity. The Rockford YMCA Amped Up Adventure Race is a collaboration between the YMCA of Rock River Valley and Be Active Outdoors. The proceeds from the Rockford race will go toward supporting youth outdoor programs at the YMCA of Rock River Valley — Camp Winnebago, and will also support the development of outdoor experiential education opportunities for students of Rockford Public School District 205. Learn more about the adventure race at

Let’s continue to break down past perceptions of what the Rock River used to be and start embracing all that it can be.

Walter Loos is executive director of Be Active Outdoors, Inc., in Beloit, Wis.

From the March 20-26, 2013, issue

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