Fox Wisconsin Heritage Parkway

A non-profit organization dedicated to the improvement and preservation of the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers.

Chapter 6: Management Alternatives

Application of National Heritage Area Feasibility Criteria

The four steps in NHA designation include:

  1. Completion of a feasibility Study.

    This report constitutes the results of the feasibility study of the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway.

  2. Public Involvement in the Feasibility Study.

    As described in Chapters 5 and 9 and Appendix F of this report, there have been significant levels of public involvement during the course of the feasibility study’s development, as well as prior to the study. This has been a community initiative that has been decades in the making and was preceded by the necessary major accomplishment of saving the historic lock system from permanent closure. This was accomplished with the transfer of the seventeen National Register designated locks from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the State of Wisconsin in September 2004. The State of Wisconsin legislature created the Fox River Navigation System Authority (FRNSA) through legislation and the governor appointed them to reconstruct, manage and operate the locks system. The creation of the Heritage Parkway was always seen as the next goal, and many interested stakeholders and the public have been anxiously waiting for the creation of the Parkway and want to offer their assistance and become involved.

  3. Demonstration of widespread public support among heritage area residents for the proposed legislation.

    Through the process of implementing our public involvement strategy, the Heritage Parkway Executive Committee has worked with, or had involvement, from hundreds of individuals throughout the corridor. The committee has received overwhelming support. Community residents were enthusiastic and encouraging, with many offering their help as the project goes forward. The only dissenting voices were quite mild and did not preclude the speakers from giving support to the project. Those who had concerns centered on the need for assurances that the NHA designation would not add undue regulations to development along the waterway, and some wanted to make sure there will be a plan in place to deal with increased usage of the waterway so that the pristine sections we do have, especially along the Upper Fox and Lower Wisconsin, are not negatively impacted due to overuse.

    Over the past two decades the Fox Cities Convention and Visitor Bureau has repeatedly conducted public surveys to determine the priorities of the community, and recreation associated with the Fox River has repeatedly been chosen as the number one focus of community interest. Additionally, the “2006 United Way Fox Cities L.I.F.E. Study” echoes this sentiment as one of their key findings. This project offers the opportunity to realize that demonstrated need for river and lake related recreational activities within a cultural heritage context. Without the Heritage Area designation it would be much more difficult to unite all of these diverse communities for a coordinated heritage tourism purpose.

  4. Commitment to the proposal from the appropriate stakeholders, which may include governments, industry and private nonprofit organizations in addition to the citizenry.

    Over a period of two years, the executive committee has documented financial and in-kind commitments among various affected levels of government and local organizations in support of an NHA. As discussed in Chapter 4, the State of Wisconsin will continue to support NHA programming through the continued improvement and preservation of recreation, natural areas, and tourism development. Wisconsin senators and representatives have committed to the project, planning to carry the proposal to Congress. The ECWRPC has contributed countless hours over several years to ensure the success of this study. Many local governments have vowed their financial support of the project, as well as promised to coordinate efforts with NHA programming and planning. Letters of support from these municipalities are found in Appendix K.

    Commitment from local businesses and organizations within the study area boundaries has remained strong. Several prominent businesses along the corridor have provided generous contributions as well as technical assistance for the project. Letters of support from organizations, such as the Neenah Historical Society, Friends of the Lower Wisconsin, the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board, and others, attest to their desire to contribute to NHA programming and planning. Among the strongest voices of support have been the many historical societies within the study area. Many have committed to in-kind contributions and wish to coordinate their current efforts with future NHA programming. Letters of support from these local organizations are found in Appendix K.

Below, a list of government and organizational partners that have conveyed support of the project:

Government Involvement
  • The Wisconsin Congressional Delegation (2 senators & 4 congressmen) (Sen. Kohl, Sen. Feingold, Congressman Steve Kagen, Tom Petri, Tammy Baldwin & Ron Kind)
  • U.S. Department of Interior – National Park Service
  • U.S. Department of Commerce – Economic Development Administration
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Bureau
  • The East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission
  • The Bay Lakes Regional Planning Commission
  • The Southwest Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission
  • The Mississippi River Regional Planning Commission
  • Wisconsin Division of Tourism
  • Wisconsin State Historical Society
  • Wisconsin Department of Commerce
  • New North, Inc.
  • River Alliance of Wisconsin
  • City of Appleton
  • City of Menasha
  • City of Neenah
  • City of Green Bay
  • City of De Pere
  • Village of Wrightstown
  • City of Kaukauna
  • Village of Little Chute
  • Village of Kimberly
  • Village of Combined Locks
  • City of Oshkosh
  • City of Fond du Lac
  • City of Omro
  • City of Berlin
  • City of Princeton
  • The Green Lake County Board
  • City of Portage
  • City of Spring Green
  • Village of Muscoda
  • Village of Boscobel
  • City of Prairie Du Chien
  • The Fox River Navigation System Authority (FRNSA)
Businesses and Private Nonprofit Organizations
  • The Friends of the Fox
  • The Friends of the Lower Wisconsin River (FLOW)
  • The Community Foundation of the Fox Valley
  • The Oshkosh Area Community Foundation
  • WE Energies of Wisconsin
  • Alliant Energy, Inc.
  • Wisconsin Public Service Incorporated
  • The Lower Wisconsin Riverway Board
  • Willems Marketing
  • The Wisconsin Historical Society & Staff
  • The Tri-County Economic Development Committee
  • Citizens for a Scenic Wisconsin
  • Fox Cities Greenways organization
  • Green Lake Greenways Committee
  • The Fox Valley League of Women voters
  • The Surgeon’s Quarters Historic Site, Portage
  • The Indian Agency House, Portage
  • The Outagamie County Historical Society
  • The Fox of the River Voyager Canoe Trips
  • The Fond du Lac Chapter of Walleyes for Tomorrow
  • The Menasha Marina
  • The Appleton Yacht Club
  • The Omro Boat Club
  • The Berlin Boat Club
  • Chambers of Commerce and Visitor/Convention Bureaus have been contacted and notified of this study, and have expressed their wish to be brought into the project during the implementation phase.
Individual Heritage Parkway Citizen Advocates
  • Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser
  • John Forster / Past President of the Friends of the Fox
  • Robert Stark /Past President of the Friends of the Fox
  • Doug Dobbe / Past President of the Friends of the Fox
  • Val Wylie / Past Exec. Dir. of the Fox Cities Convention and Visitor Bureau
  • Harlan Kiesow /CEO of the Fox River Navigational System Authority
  • Ron Van De Hey / Chairman of the Fox River Management Authority
  • Candice Mortara / Friends of the Fox President
  • Dan Reinhold / FOF Board – Templeton Investments
  • Ellen Balthazar / FOF Board – Fond du Lac
  • Pete Hensler / FOF Board – Retired Community Development Director
  • Jack Nelson / FRNSA Board – Retired Principal of C.R. Meyer & Associates
  • Eric Fowle / Executive Director/ECWRPC
  • Ed Kleckner / FOF Board – Principal Planner/ECWRPC – Past President of ASLA-WI
  • Tom Baron / Planner / East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission
  • Dave Peck / FOF Board member
  • Brunhilde Courtney / FOF Board member
  • Dave Horst / Freelance Writer – Media manager/Community Foundation
  • Betsy Rozelle / Private Consultant
  • Mike Brandel / Bubolz Nature Preserve (retired)
  • Timm Zumm / Co-Chair, Friends of the Lower Wisconsin River
  • Dave Gjestson / Co-Chair, Friends of the Lower Wisconsin River
  • Mark Cupp / Executive Director, Lower Wisconsin Riverway Board
  • Vickie Milde / President, Fox Cities Greenways
  • Lauree Renaud, President, Green Lake Greenways Committee
  • Charley Weeth, Executive Director, Citizens for a Scenic Wisconsin
  • Jerry Disterhaft, Fox of the River Voyageur Canoe Trips
  • Glen Gorsuch, Fox of the River Voyageur Canoe Trips
  • Mayor Tim Hanna / Mayor of Appleton
  • Mayor Dick Schramer / Mayor of Berlin
  • Bob Jakel / Director, City of Kaukauna Community Development
  • Ken Jahn / Mayor, City of Portage
  • Tim Raimer / Director, City of Portage Park and Recreation Dept.
  • Mary Ann Harding / Exec. Dir. Surgeon’s Quarters – Daughters of the Am. Revolution

Criteria for Designation

A feasibility study must find that a candidate region meets the following ten NPS interim criteria for NHA designation:

  1. The area has an assemblage of natural, historic, and cultural resources that together represent distinctive aspects of American heritage worthy of recognition, conservation, interpretation, and continuing use and are best managed as such assemblage through partnerships among public and private entities and by combining diverse and sometimes noncontiguous resources and active communities.

    Chapters 2 and 3 present the history of the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway and identify the collection of historic and cultural resources within the proposed NHA boundaries. These include resources that are of both national and regional significance. Together, this assemblage represents the distinct contribution of the Fox-Wisconsin waterway to the national story. Dating back to 9,000 BCE, this area was a center for American Indian culture and commerce; a cornerstone of exploration as part of New France; and a contemporary water highway, promoting immigration and industrial innovation. The many stories and themes found here combine to make this a unique place within existing NHAs and within the rest of the country.

    The resources related to these themes merit national recognition. A NHA designation will enable better management of these resources, linking them together to better conserve, interpret, and continue their use in the national interest. Currently, there are numerous individual resources and publicly owned green spaces that are unable to work in tandem to promote the common preservation and interpretation of their shared themes. This means that many culturally important sites are being forced to close their doors due to lack of funding, and many green spaces are just sitting there without the public being able to access them. An NHA will provide the structure for the coordination of the entire corridor and will allow for the sum to be much stronger than the individual parts. Part of this strength will come from their improved opportunities for combining funding from existing resources with new sources, from their new found ability to market the area as a destination with the stories of the people being the draw, and finally from the power of their combined voices to insist on preservation. Already, several organizations, communities, and historical societies within the study area have offered their resources and support in future collaborative efforts. Their letters of support are found in Appendix K.

  2. Reflects traditions, customs, beliefs, and folklife that are a valuable part of the national story.

    The Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway is a landscape filled with traditions, folklore, and beliefs that are an important part of the national story. On the brink of the western frontier throughout much of the 1700 and 1800s, this landscape demonstrates a unique frontier experience. As home to the Ho-Chunk and Menominee for thousands of years, this place contains a long and rich American Indian history. With the momentous journey of Marquette and Joliet, the waters became a vital link to the expansion and exploration of the West. From there the corridor became a national leader in water power and transportation, earning the title, “the hardest working rivers in the world.” Finally, as European settlers came by way of these waters, they transformed this place, bringing with them their traditions and cultures, molding them to their new surroundings.

    Today, these stories are still evident on the landscape. They are found in the ancient stone face carvings on the Niagara Escarpment, the remains of Fort Crawford, and in the old ethnic traditions of Parkway residents. Along the rivers, the Red Banks remain, where Jean Nicolet landed in his Chinese robe almost 400 years ago. Likewise, Wisconsin Heights still recalls the 1832 battle between United States militia and Fox and Sauk warriors. Today, Nicolet still stands at Red Banks and Black Hawk’s memory is still alive. Place names still reflect the influence of the French at Fond du Lac and Prairie du Chien, and of Irish culture in Avoca and English origins in Boscobel. From Indian country, to a place of exploration, to industry and immigration, the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway has been a place of important movements and events that have contributed to the national character. Appendix B provides a list of cultural and natural sites, and demonstrates the plentiful resources available along the rivers.

  3. Provides outstanding opportunities to conserve natural, cultural, historic and/or scenic features.

    The Fox-Wisconsin waterway is already a remarkably diverse learning laboratory for all ages. Because of its importance in many phases of Wisconsin history, field trips to the numerous historic sites along its banks are a regular feature for Wisconsin’s primary and elementary students, whose teachers utilize the experience for their social studies curriculum. The varied resources along the waterway have provided didactic and applied learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in public and private higher learning institutions for many years. Research topics have included archeology, aquatic biology, landscape history and restoration, wildlife management and conservation, architectural preservation, settlement history, and responsible recreational development.

    Federal and state entities such as the USFW, WDNR, Wisconsin Historical Society and State Historical Preservation Office, Wisconsin Nature Conservancy, and the Northeast Wisconsin and Green Lake Land trusts provide strong support to the existing corridor through their administration of several sites. These include a National Wildlife Refuge, several state parks, the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway, a total of seven National Historic Landmarks, and three Nature Conservancy sites. In addition, over 3,500 properties along the corridor are listed in the National Register of Historic Places—some of these are owned and operated by non-profit organizations such as local historical societies, and as such provide an important historical resource for the visitor.

    The unique and varied resources found along the entire length of the Fox-Wisconsin waterway offer enjoyment and education to visitors of all ages and abilities. Creating a NHA would link the waterway with its communities and with the organizations that manage individual properties along its length, in a common cause. Conservation of the natural, cultural, historic and/or scenic features is already an important consideration for the above-mentioned groups. However, they work individually rather than in unison. As members of the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway, these groups would have reason to work together to develop a master plan for conservation and management of the entire area that would protect their own interests, and those of the entire area, using a cohesive and unified approach.

  4. Provides outstanding educational and recreational opportunities.

    Historical education is available to the public, currently, through museums and historic societies. Each of them provides a small piece of the local story and many are struggling to maintain visitors. The opportunity which exists beautifully in this corridor comes from the very idea of bringing the history to the people in the very element in which it happened. Through signage and interpretation at its entrances and along its length, the importance of the Fox-Wisconsin waterway as a transportation and settlement corridor over several hundred years and successive cultures would be more readily apparent to the visitor. This would enable a greater number of people to become exposed to our rich history, and then those who would like to learn more can be directed to the many in-depth resources available. This will reaffirm to those who live here that we are living in a very special place, one to be proud of.

    Environmental education is currently available at nature preserves and through other organizations and schools. Additional resources, such as a visitor and education center with audio-visual materials, outdoor viewing platforms, and classrooms would encourage increased student visitation and participation along the length of the waterway. These resources would provide exceptional teaching opportunities in subjects such as conservation principles and practices, wildlife management, local and regional history, settlement patterns, and many other topics, using the resources that are already in place. This form of environmental education takes a big picture approach, and educate by looking through the lens of place and balance.

    Environmental education will be enhanced with increasing recreational opportunities. The more people that come to this place to enjoy its natural and cultural wonders, the more they will care about it, want to know more about it, and, finally, want to care for it. The Heritage Parkway will increase and link the trail system along the waterway, and will promote its use. The Parkway will create portage trails around the locks on the system and promote the paddle craft water trail. Looking at the system of publicly owned green spaces for their cohesive best use will provide additional passive recreation, camping, fishing, and boat launching sites.

  5. The resource important to the identified theme or themes of the area retain a degree of integrity capable of supporting interpretation.

    Chapter 4 and Appendix B demonstrate the abundance of cultural sites along the Parkway. Despite a large level of urbanization along the Fox River, this region provides many landscape features and structures that retain a high degree of integrity capable of supporting interpretation. These sites include an array of natural and geographical features, a large collection of Indian effigy mounds, and historic buildings that contributed to the fur trade and the early settlement of the region, not to mention the series of seventeen locks and lock tender houses. Many of these sites are currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places or on the state or local register. In addition to being well preserved, most of these sites are open to the public.

    When we connect these resources through the themes in Chapter 4, these resources can be better interpreted to highlight their significance within the greater context of the rivers. A NHA designation would also allow for greater preservation and restoration efforts along the Parkway. This would further expand and underscore the importance of this unique and important place.

  6. Residents, business interests, non-profit organizations, and governments within the proposed area are involved in the planning and have developed a conceptual financial plan that outlines the roles for all participants including the federal government and have demonstrated support for designation of the area.

    A committee representing residents, business interests, non-profits, foundations, and local and regional governmental interests was formed to prepare a preliminary three year financial plan. All gave support for the project and agreed to sit on an advisory committee for the length of the planning process. The financial plan is found at the end of this chapter.

    The Fox-Wisconsin River Heritage Parkway has been recognized by the State of Wisconsin since 1991, when it was established as a pilot heritage tourism project through a partnership between the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Wisconsin Division of Tourism. With a new designation as a NHA, the current project envisions an even stronger ongoing working relationship with the Wisconsin Division of Tourism to handle a more aggressive marketing and promotion of the Heritage Area Parkway in a coordinated manner. The umbrella management entity for the entire Heritage Parkway would coordinate marketing and event promotion with the State of Wisconsin and the NPS utilizing the available budget. The three sub-management entities associated with the Lower Wisconsin River, the Upper Fox and the Lower Fox Rivers, would work in partnership with the many local businesses and attractions to produce brochures and marketing pieces for multi-media distribution. The cost of producing the promotional items would be born jointly by a coalition of the private businesses who would benefit, and the Wisconsin Division of Tourism and available federal funding. Previous materials have been funded by a grant from the Wisconsin Division of Tourism, a gift from the Friends of the Fox, and the private business sector ads of local businesses who were promoted within the materials. With the current project we envision utilizing the “Discover Wisconsin” TV program, and TV and Radio media ads, as well as an extensive website, and an internet based ad campaign.

  7. The proposed management entity and units of government supporting designation are willing to commit to working in partnership to develop the heritage area.

    The executive committee began this plan by meeting with communities and organizations over the length of the Parkway in visioning sessions, so that they could better understand the Parkway concept and we could determine what their vision was for the development and/or protection of their own waterfront. In holding all of these visioning sessions it was readily apparent that there was a tremendous enthusiasm for moving this project ahead. In their enthusiasm for the plan, some units of government have passed unsolicited resolutions of support for the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway plan. In our planning for this project, it is our intention to develop the plan document, circulate it to all of the stakeholder organizations and units of government to obtain their input and comments, and only then seek letters of support. When this public review process has been completed, and their comments and ideas are incorporated, the executive committee will at that time request communities to sponsor a more formal resolution of support for the Heritage Parkway plan.

  8. The proposal is consistent with continued economic activity in the area.

    The Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway is consistent with economic development plans for the State of Wisconsin. Tourism is the second largest industry in Wisconsin and heritage tourism is a significant segment of that total. A previous feasibility study conducted by LDR & Associates concluded that a Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway focused on the historic lock sites, recreational opportunities, and significant national and local historic sites would have a very positive economic impact on increasing tourism visitation and the resultant spending. It is anticipated that a rather modest 10 percent increase in recreational and heritage tourism and a 20 percent increase in lodging stays would have a spending impact of over $73 million annually. Additionally, there are approximately 2 million people living within 50 miles of the Parkway Rivers and who have the potential to be regional tourists. With the recognition and added significance designation as a NHA will bring, the potential to draw tourists from a much larger area only grows.

    The Heritage Parkway project will add jobs directly to the heritage tourism economy but it will also strengthen our State’s economy in another, perhaps even more important way. Every business is competing with others around the country in trying to attract the best and brightest employees. When the most sought after personnel are being recruited by businesses they need to emphasize that the area offers a superior quality of life beyond the working hours of the day. The recreational opportunities that are offered within the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway make it easier for businesses to attract the best qualified people to help their businesses succeed. The extraordinary recreational opportunities offered by the Parkway, taken together with Wisconsin’s very affordable housing costs, good schools, and comparatively safe and very friendly communities provides an edge for businesses when recruiting the best key management people and staff.

  9. A conceptual boundary is supported by the public.

    The proposed boundaries of the Parkway are based upon the route of exploration of Marquette and Joliet and are delineated using a two-mile buffer from the centerline of the Upper and Lower Fox River, and Lower Wisconsin River. (See Appendix A, Map 1) In certain instances, this buffer will be extended to include nationally significant historical sites that connect to the themes of the Parkway. It is our view that automobile trails using existing roadways will provide the best opportunity for involving the greatest number of visitors in Heritage Parkway related activities; however, the Parkway is being designed to be accessible by a wide variety of means. Bicycle, walking/hiking trails, and water trails will also be developed. Biking, walking, and hiking enthusiasts will be able to follow the river along designated scenic routes. The majority of these pedestrian trails will be within the two-mile buffer with exceptions being based on providing connections to existing trails. The water trail system being developed in the plan, which ranges from small kayaks and canoes to sailboats to medium and large motorized crafts, represents the fourth method of access to the Heritage Parkway system. The water trail is at times dependent on automobile trails for launching and recovering watercraft, both motorized and people powered. The multiple of means of access allows the Parkway to appeal to a very diverse cross-section of the public, and provides for a broad range of ways to experience all it has to offer.

    The boundary delineation has been presented at each public meeting and has been well received by the public as well as the Heritage Parkway Executive and Advisory Committees.

  10. The management entity proposed to plan and implement the project is described.

    A committee was formed to evaluate the best management entity. It was determined that at this time, a non-profit corporation is the best option. The corporation will be run by a board of directors, with an executive director overseeing operations. The size of the corridor makes it necessary to create local entities which assist in the running of the Parkway and report to the larger board. These local entities are broken up into river segments, one for the Wisconsin River and one for the Fox River. The drastic difference in character of the rivers and communities makes a local entity more effective at coordination and communication. The duties for each tier in the management structure are listed below.

    Once the Parkway is established and base work is completed, individual site development can take place which will be initiated and funded by local units of government working in partnership with private entities. Development proposals will be reviewed by the Parkway board to insure they do not conflict with the overall goals and objectives of the Parkway. It is always understood that private entities have no obligation to be bound by the Parkway board’s decision and may at any time opt out of participating in the Heritage Parkway promotions.

    The public reaction has been positive regarding the management structure. Housing the local entities within existing non-profits allows for immediate public support. Both the Friends of the Lower Wisconsin and the Friends of the Fox are well respected within their respective communities and carry good sized membership bases from which they can request support.

    An evaluation will be done after the first two to three years to determine whether the two local entities can be transferred outside the existing non-profits to stand on their own. Research will also be done during this timeframe to determine if ultimately the federal commission structure will be better suited to the long-term management of the Parkway.