City designates week of April 21 ‘Rock River Trail Week’

10,000 free trees to be distributed among 11 counties

Staff Report

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) and the Rockford City Council proclaimed the week of April 21 “Rock River Water Trail Week” in honor of the Rock River Trail being only the 10th water trail in the country to be designated into the National Water Trails System by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

The official letter of designation and plaque have been received by the Rock River Trail Initiative’s founder and coordinator, Frank Schier, editor and publisher of The Rock River Times.

The National Water Trails System is a distinctive national network of exemplary water trails of local and regional significance that are cooperatively supported and sustained.

The trails system has been established to protect and restore America’s rivers, shorelines and waterways, and to increase access to outdoor recreation on shorelines and waterways.

This type of national recognition puts us on the map nationally for water trail recreation and tourism as well as environmental stewardship, and also lays a good foundation to apply for grants from government and other private foundation sources in the future,” Schier said.

Trails in the National Water Trail System must meet four criteria for national recreation trails plus incorporate seven best management practices. The Rock River Water Trail links 11 counties in both Illinois and Wisconsin along the 320-mile river course, from the headwaters above the Horicon Marsh in Fond du Lac and Dodge counties to the confluence with the Mississippi River at Rock Island, Ill. The water trail is a delineated path on the river that connects access sites, resting places and attractions for users of water craft.

Morrissey noted: “I want to thank Frank Schier and the entire Rock River Trail organization for their leadership in establishing one of Rockford’s best physical assets, the Rock River, as one of only 10 National Water Trails in the United States. This puts the Rock River on the national stage as a water trail to visit and recreate, and capitalizing on the Rock River has been one of my top priorities.”

Included in this week’s “Rock River Trail Week” activities is a distribution of up to 10,000 trees in the 11 counties along the Rock River. Chad Pregracke, president of Living Lands and Waters’ One Million Trees program, has donated these 30,000 trees to the Rock River Trail Initiative and our river. Each of the 11 counties will get at least 900 trees, with 450 trees slated for the public sector (city, county, state, forest preserves or conservation areas), and the other 450 trees slated for farms, residences and businesses along the Rock River.

For Winnebago County, while supplies last, contact Rockford Park District Natural Areas Maintenance Coordinator Nate Hill at (815) 289-9901. Distribution of the trees will be from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, April 27, as supplies last at the Rockford Park District Trolley Station, 302 N. Madison. Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful (KNIB) as part of the Great American Clean Up, will offer trees at Rockton Village Green Park, 149 E. Chapel St., Rockton; Roscoe Public Works Building, 5402 Swanson Road, Roscoe; South Beloit Fire Station, 149 Gardner St., South Beloit; and New Milford Village Hall, 6771 11th St., New Milford.

The Rock River Trail Initiative Council Members for Winnebago County are Rockford Park District Executive Director Emeritus and Historian Webbs Norman, Tom Lindblade, president of the Illinois Paddling Council and Schier.

Editor’s note: Following is the official proclamation of the Rock River Trail as a National Water Trail:



March 11, 2013

Mr. Frank Schier

Founder, Rock River Trail Initiative

128 North Church Street

Rockford, Illinois 61101

Dear Mr. Schier:

I am writing to inform you that I have designated the Rock River Water Trail as a part of the National Water Trails System. This recognition places the Rock River Water Trail in a distinctive national network of exemplary water trails and commends the efforts of the local community and its partners in promoting active involvement in the conservation of our water resources. The Rock River Water Trail is a paragon in a growing movement to connect Americans to their rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.

The expansion of water trails across the Nation is important to a sustainable future for the environment, our local communities, and the economy. Culture, commerce, and our natural environment are inextricably connected by these trails. The effort to conserve and connect to these treasured waterways unites us to our natural and cultural inheritances.

With the outstanding management and accomplishments of Rock River Water Trail, your mentorship and guidance will undoubtedly contribute to the success of the National Water Trails System. Thank you for your leadership.


Ken Salazar

Editor’s note: The following information was provided by Living Lands & Waters.


Seedling Planting Instructions

Keep watering the storage bag until you see the buds swelling, soak the tree in water for one day and then plant — that’s the optimum planting time.

1. Scout out an area for your tree that is clear from power lines, other trees, buildings and anything else within 30 feet from tree. Call your utilities to have them mark for underground utilities. If necessary, obtain permission to plant in your desired area.

2. Dig a hole, at least two times the width of the root system, so the roots can spread without crowding.

3. Turn the soil up to 3 feet in diameter around your hole to help promote root growth.

4. Place the tree in the hole, with the top of the roots just under the soil line. Make sure the roots are spread out in their natural direction. Do not plant with packing materials.

5. Partially fill the hole with dirt, firm the soil around the lower roots, making sure not to break them. Use water to help reduce air pockets.

6. Fill the rest of the hole up, making sure the root collar is at the soil line, and pack firmly. Do not pack too tightly, as this may break roots and slow root growth.

7. Water the tree with plenty of water, making sure to water the entire planting area.

8. After the water has soaked in, place mulch around the tree within 1 inch of touching the tree. Mulch is important for retaining moisture and keeping weeds down.

9. Water your newly-planted tree every week or 10 days during the first year. Water slowly around the drip line. (The drip line is defined by the farthest reaching leaves/branches.)

10. Enjoy your new oak tree!

Note: Pin oak planting areas should be tested with a pH soil testing kit. For pin oak, you need neutral to acidic readings on the test kit for wherever you plant the tree. Pick your spot for planting, and test each spot. If you don’t, you’ll know you’re killing the tree when you see the leaves turn yellow, and it will get worse each year — it’s called Iron Chlorosis. (Information courtesy of Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ George Bellovics, Grand Illinois Trail Coordinator, Acting Region 1 Landscape Architect.)

Living Lands & Waters’ Million Trees Project

The goal of the Million Trees Project is to grow and plant 1 MILLION trees during the next five to 10 years!

We are growing native hardwood nut-bearing trees that will benefit our rivers and communities. Visit our website for details and more about this exciting project:

Following are some great facts about trees:

1. Provide food and shelter for birds and wildlife

2. Reduce air pollution

3. Provide shade and conserve energy

4. Reduce soil erosion

5. Roots help reduce the amount of pollution and run-off entering our creeks, rivers and streams

6. Trees are just plain beautiful and increase aesthetics everywhere they are planted

7. Oak trees can reach up to 100 feet tall, and their branches can reach up to 100 feet wide.

What goes into growing our trees?

There are many behind-the-scenes activities that require a lot of organization, coordination, time and manpower that contribute to each and every seedling that is given away. We hope, therefore, that you take care of it and are able to give it the attention it deserves.

We hope you enjoy your new tree for many years to come!

For more information, e-mail Ashley Stover, Million Trees Project coordinator, at, visit, mail 17624 Route 84 N. East Moline, IL 61244, or call (309) 737-5913.

From the April 24-30, 2013, issue

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