Fox Wisconsin Heritage Parkway

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

Chapter 7: Vision Statement

The purpose of the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway is to exemplify and promote the natural, recreational, and historic resources within the Fox and Wisconsin River corridor and create additional opportunities for historic interpretation, recreation, and conservation.

This plan provides a framework for identifying development scenarios and promoting Parkway lands and other corridor resources for the purposes of increased recreation, historic interpretation and conservation opportunities and makes recommendations for additional recreational developments based on the linear nature of the system.

Promotion and marketing of existing historic and recreation sites using a comprehensive system-wide approach of heritage preservation and interpretation, and developing connections between sites will help unify the river corridor and complement the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway program by creating a focal point for action and resources and a regional destination.

Parkway Goals and Objectives

The primary goals and objectives of the Parkway plan relate to increasing opportunities for historical interpretation and recreation within the river corridor. Planning for the following goals will contribute to and should be considered along with additional recommendations for increasing economic development, developing education programs, and fostering additional intergovernmental cooperation.

GOAL 1: Increase Opportunities for Historical Interpretation within the Corridor
OBJECTIVE 1.1: Encourage continued historical research of the corridor.

While a great deal of historical information exists throughout the corridor, as a continually evolving landscape in a changing society, much of its history remains unknown. The Parkway will encourage historical research and preservation efforts continually, so that the stories, people, and places of this culturally rich landscape are not forgotten. This would include partnering with historical societies, cultural groups, museums, and schools and universities to assist with the continued recollection of this place.

OBJECTIVE 1.2: Promote creation of interpretive centers and/or museums where feasible to interpret river resources.

Interpretive centers are important for providing a more detailed, in-depth understanding of the history of the rivers’ resources. Interpretive centers provide opportunities to give an expanded interpretation of an individual community’s history and show connections and relationships between individual historic sites, buildings and persons. Interpretive centers also serve as an attraction for centralized sources of information and as starting and orientation points for excursions and tours. They may also provide directional information, rest facilities, and refreshments.

OBJECTIVE 1.3: Promote interpretation of lock structures and the navigation system.

The lock and navigation system is a unique historical asset that ties the corridor together thematically from end to end and serves as the basis for a larger scope of interpretation within individual communities throughout the corridor. This is one of only two hand operated lock systems in the country which has been continually functioning since its inception. Locks that are structurally intact provide opportunities for historic interpretation where visitors can view historic materials and construction methods. Operating locks provide exhibits of living history where visitors can view lock operation as it occurred over 100 years ago.

Interpretive signage should be strategically placed within the corridor and at individual sites to interpret the history of the lock and navigation system. Signage is important in providing meaningful information to visitors as well as direction and wayfinding. A comprehensive signage program should be developed to insure intelligent interpretation and provide a unifying element both aesthetically and thematically to the Parkway.

OBJECTIVE 1.4: Promote adaptive re-use of lock tender’s houses and other structures.

Existing lock tender’s houses provide historical structures that could be converted into interpretation facilities. An onsite interpretation center would be most effective in interpreting locks by providing opportunities to view the actual movement of boats through an operating lock. Converting one of these structures into a bed and breakfast facility would be another adaptive re-use that would capitalize on their historic function, as well as encouraging U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to host a visitor center as historic showpiece telling of their initial role in the development of the nation. ECRWPC has a preliminary development plan for these sites that was created for this study. The plan is available upon request.

Historic buildings and structures are aesthetically appealing and help to interpret the past and reflect community heritage through association with former uses and architectural style. This is an important element of the Parkway effort. The many historic buildings located on and near the river are attractive for many unique uses that focus on riverfront activity including eating and drinking establishments, unique shops, and museums, as well as residential and general commercial use.

OBJECTIVE 1.5: Encourage adaptive re-use of historic buildings.

Increased riverfront activity associated with development of the Parkway can be used by communities to market historic buildings and sites for adaptive re-use. Tax breaks, development incentives, and community development plans focusing on re-use of historic structures can also be used to initiate interest for their redevelopment. Re-use of these structures can expand the tax base, improve river aesthetics, attract tourists, create employment opportunities, and encourage additional development.

OBJECTIVE 1.6: Promote connections between locks, nearby historic structures and sites, and other tourist attractions.

Creating connections between various sites creates destination areas or a “system of sites” as opposed to individual stand alone sites. The ability to visit several sites related by theme or function will do more to attract visitors to the corridor and individual communities than individual sites alone. Relating historic sites and structures to each other and to the locks through common backgrounds or cause and effect themes increases interpretation opportunities for visitors. Promoting relationships between sites also provides for a more comprehensive, in-depth, and interesting learning experience for those with historical interests and may stimulate interested visitors to learn more about particular subjects. This is especially important to educators interested in developing field trips for school groups to foster interest and learning about history.

OBJECTIVE 1.7: Create historic tours focusing on historic resources within corridor communities.

Historic tours, whether walking, biking, car or bus, can benefit from and be used to promote historic sites and structures within communities. Theme tours focusing on the relationship of sites and structures as discussed above would be especially attractive in drawing tourists for multi-day visits to the corridor.

OBJECTIVE 1.8: Develop brochures to interpret various cultural and historical aspects of the river corridor and proposed Parkway.

Brochures, tour guides, and related print material are extremely important in the development and support of heritage tourism initiatives. They attract visitors, aid in learning, give direction, and provide general information, as well as disseminating detailed historical facts. They are also important in promoting the recreational aspects of heritage tourism programs.

GOAL 2: Increase Recreational Opportunities within the Corridor
OBJECTIVE 2.1: Create increased water access through the development of canoe and boat launching facilities and additional boat mooring facilities.

Increasing access points for water craft along the river will facilitate recreational boating where there is an identified need for such facilities. Where closed, locks create separate river pools, it is important to provide easy access to all pools for recreational boating and fishing. Boat slips and mooring facilities that will accommodate temporary visitation to parks, tourist attractions, and river and lakefront developments for boaters, especially in urban areas, can increase Parkway use and site visitation. Increased attractions for recreational boating can create a need for income-generating seasonally leased slips and related marine services.

OBJECTIVE 2.2: Create increased fishing opportunities through development of shore fishing access, boat launching facilities, and fishing piers, including access for disabled persons.

Creation of the Parkway will significantly increase public access to the waterfront. Opportunities for fishing should be increased by providing well designed bank and pier fishing in strategic locations throughout the Parkway. Many parts of the Fox River/Lake Winnebago/Wisconsin River chain are well known as excellent fishing resources. This activity should be managed and promoted and all potential users accommodated.

OBJECTIVE 2.3: Develop comprehensive plan for all formerly owned U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land parcels.

The navigation system of locks, canals, and associated lands is a core component of and provides the base lands for the Parkway. The state has ownership of these lands and is able to combine them with those of the Upper Fox River sites and Lake Winnebago harbors to create a system of Parkway lands spaced along the river system from Green Bay to Portage. Other lands along the Wisconsin River will also be identified for possible inclusion into the Parkway system. A comprehensive look at these lands is necessary to develop a plan that will best serve the purposes of the Parkway.

OBJECTIVE 2.4: Promote use of the existing lock structures for the purposes of through navigation.

On the Lower Fox this would provide the ability to navigate through the various river pools and create connections between different communities and nodes of activity is extremely important in attracting larger boats and creating riverfront developments that can capitalize on increased river activity. This would also include cruise and tour boats, where docking and disembarking for various site visitations would be involved. Existing and proposed tourist attractions, riverfront restaurants, marina and boat slip facilities, and related developments in various areas would benefit. The ability to navigate longer lengths of the rivers makes the Parkway more attractive and inviting, and increases usability for all river users by increasing the possibilities for recreation on any given outing. The ability to boat through historic locks is a unique recreational opportunity available in few places in the Midwest and is a unique aspect of the Parkway. The number of registered boats in the Fox Valley and other areas of the corridor continue to increase creating more potential for lock use.

There is no plan to renovate the locks at Princeton and Montello, on the Upper Fox. These structures allow for the use of canoes, kayaks, and smaller boats. Communities along the Upper Fox will be encouraged to plan facilities that cater to these watercrafts.

OBJECTIVE 2.5: Promote connections between river pools through installation of boat pullovers and canoe portages around closed locks.

The ability for canoes and smaller boats to easily navigate around locks and between pools is important in creating a linear river recreation trail. Installing portages around the locks contributes to the ability to create and promote designated canoe routes, such as a multi-day trip that retraces the discovery route of Marquette and Joliet. It also enhances fishing on the river and, as with functioning locks, creates river connections between the Parkway parcels and other sites thereby increasing recreational opportunities.

OBJECTIVE 2.6: Promote development of picnicking areas and other open space areas for passive recreational activities.

In addition to providing river access, Parkway lands provide needed open space in increasingly populated areas of the river corridor communities. Developing these sites as picnic and other passive open space areas also provides stopping places and rest areas for canoeists and other river users. Many sites have exceptional views of the river and are especially suited for quiet, passive, reflective activities. There is an increasing need for open space to serve growing populations as identified in community recreation and open space plans.

OBJECTIVE 2.7: Promote development of campsites and campgrounds.

There is an identified need for camping accommodations within the Parkway, especially in the Lower Fox River area. Strategically placed overnight facilities are important for promoting extended canoe and bicycle trips along designated routes. Waterfront camping sites provide additional opportunities for recreation than camping facilities located away from water bodies. Many of the Parkway lands could accommodate development of low impact or primitive camping sites and increase overnight stays and visitation within the corridor.

OBJECTIVE 2.8: Promote development of nature study areas and environmental education trails.

Many of the larger lock sites in undeveloped areas provide enough land in which to develop contained trail systems for nature study, environmental education, and recreation. Facilities that interpret native vegetation and resources, including their use by American Indians and others, promote education and understanding of resources and culture, as well as fostering an appreciation of history.

OBJECTIVE 2.9: Promote development of linear recreation systems including riverfront hiking trails, multi-use trails, bicycle routes, and greenways.

Linear recreation systems provide opportunities for many forms of recreation and provide a quality of life component to communities that is highly valued. Multi-use trails accommodate walking, running, rollerblading, and biking. They are important in providing an experience uninterrupted by traffic, stop lights and other distractions. Greenways are important in providing quiet, undeveloped buffer areas for recreation and/or resource protection. The excess federal lands that make up the core of the Parkway could provide approximately ten miles of waterfront property for this use. The linear nature of these properties makes them extremely important in developing linear systems and is a vital component of the Parkway.

OBJECTIVE 2.10: Develop connections between existing parks, trails, and open space, as well as historic sites and tourist attractions.

Linear recreation systems and greenways should be used to create connections between Parkway lands, recreation areas, tourist attractions, and historic sites not only along the waterfront, but also within the river corridor and its communities. Linear recreation systems and connections between sites, such as bicycle routes, are extremely important in creating alternative, more enjoyable ways of experiencing corridor attractions and providing recreation. Developing various attractions and nodes of activity that are interconnected creates destination areas or circuits as opposed to individual non-related sites. This allows for the development of programs such as historic walking tours and bike routes that can combine recreation with visitation to historic sites, tourist attractions and parks. This strengthens tourism programs by creating situations where “strength of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

OBJECTIVE 2.11: Promote development of corridor wide scenic routes through designated bike tours, auto tours, and bus tours.

Scenic routes and tours should be developed to interpret the character and personality of the entire river corridor and its various landscapes. They can also serve to tie together sites and attractions that are more widely dispersed throughout the corridor. These scenic tours can focus on both natural and cultural resources and can be purely recreational (a scenic drive) or can incorporate interpretation of landscapes, resource areas and individual sites and attractions. A wildflower prairie, tree lined country roads and river roads, historic districts and small town main streets as well as individual farms, historical buildings and bridges can all be a part of scenic tour routes. Where possible, they should tie in and access linear recreation systems, bike routes, and greenways that create connections between individual sites in and around communities. Careful viewshed planning should be a part of tour design.

OBJECTIVE 2.12: Expand excursion boats, bus tours and other group tourism opportunities.

Increased historic interpretation and unique riverfront activities associated with the development of the Parkway and related facilities will increase opportunities for large group tours. Local historical societies, convention and visitor’s bureaus and private sector organizations should create and promote major tourism activities in order to increase activity and spending within the Parkway.

OBJECTIVE 2.13: Promote and increase river use through development of linear water trails and canoe routes.

As with other linear recreation systems and scenic routes and tours, designated water trails and routes serve to connect various sites, expand recreation options, and increase river use. By identifying and promoting waterfront sites such as parks and picnic areas, portages and launching facilities, camping areas, marine services and restaurants, etc., boaters and canoeists are easily able to plan full or multi-day trips. Knowing that there are easily accessible support facilities and a variety of attractions increases the attractiveness of the corridor for river users.

OBJECTIVE 2.14: Create unique activities such as a whitewater canoe and kayak course.

A properly developed whitewater course used for general recreation and competition would be a unique attraction for the area. A course developed on the Wisconsin River in the City of Wausau has been successful in attracting amateur and professional competitions and is a tourism boost for the area. Unique recreational opportunities such as these will add diversity and increase recreation alternatives within the corridor.

OBJECTIVE 2.15: Promote development of a regional or state park at the Lost Dauphin site.

Various studies and plans, including the “Brown County Open Space and Outdoor Recreation Plan,” have identified the former Lost Dauphin State Park site and the Little Rapids site as the location of a new state or regional park to serve the Lower Fox River area. This plan also recommends inclusion of these lands into the Parkway for possible development including trails, camping, picnicking, fishing and boat launching and mooring facilities. High Cliff State Park is the only state park in the corridor and serves the same population base as eight state parks in southwestern Wisconsin. Developing a regional or state park-type facility here would provide an alternative to High Cliff and increase recreation on the river. It is strategically located on a stretch of river between two large urban areas served by two operating locks and if developed could contribute to meeting many objectives of this plan.

OBJECTIVE 2.16: Continue to manage and promote hunting and fishing resources within the corridor.

The Fox River, Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin River, and associated natural areas provide many opportunities for fishing and hunting. An abundance of marshes, wetlands, forests, and farm fields along the rivers provide ideal conditions for many forms of wildlife. The WDNR manages several thousand acres as natural areas for wildlife habitat and hunting. These same areas provide ideal sites for bird watching and wildlife viewing. These resources should be managed to insure they continue to provide the same quality and level of opportunity.

OBJECTIVE 2.17: Support current resource management and environmental programs.

A healthy fishery, wildlife habitats, clean water and pollution control are all critical to a healthy enjoyable river system. Current programs and ongoing efforts should be supported and encouraged. Parkway planning efforts should be structured to best meet the overall goals and objectives for various river programs.

Other Recommendations:
Promote economic development within the river corridor.

Pursuing the primary Parkway goals and objectives of increasing historic interpretation and recreational opportunities within the corridor should help foster initial Parkway site development and create conditions that will stimulate increased economic development activity within the corridor. However, additional programs and activities can be promoted to further encourage the development of certain river corridor parcels and increase economic activity.

Encourage public/private partnerships for the development of Parkway sites and related facilities.

Communities should seek out partnerships with the private sector to help fund Parkway related developments. Facilities such as restaurants, hotel developments, museums, retail shops, and various small business ventures can be encouraged through incentives. These types of developments will help expand employment opportunities and increase the value of public sector investment. Parkway site developments such as interpretive facilities can also be achieved through partnerships with the private sector.

Encourage redevelopment of urban waterfront parcels.

Underutilized parcels should be identified and targeted for redevelopment. Special development zones can be created and dedicated through zoning for mixed use riverfront developments that can capitalize on riverfront activity. Communities should also work with state and federal agencies to clean up contaminated sites and create incentives for their development. Redevelopment of derelict and underutilized sites helps clean up the appearance of the riverfront and increases the tax base. Concentrating development in urban areas helps create nodes of activity and also helps minimize negative development impacts in rural areas of the river corridor.

Encourage the development of educational programs and curricula.

Many educational opportunities related to history and heritage can be achieved through historic interpretation efforts associated with proposed Parkway development. These interpretive efforts will educate tourists and the local populace about the history of the river, its people, and related commercial, industrial, and community development. It is also recommended that additional educational programs focusing on river history and local heritage be developed as learning curricula for elementary, middle, and high school students.

Make use of existing interpretive and educational facilities.

Existing museums, nature centers, universities, interpretive facilities, and historic sites already serve educational functions and provide resources and staff knowledgeable about various aspects of local and regional history and heritage. Staff should be utilized for their expertise to help develop special educational programs. Existing facilities and programs can also be incorporated into educational programs and field trips.

Develop educational programs in tandem with proposed Parkway interpretive facilities.

Development of the Parkway provides the opportunity to develop school curricula and programs unique to the history and heritage of the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers. Programs focusing on Parkway themes can benefit from proposed interpretive centers, trails, and other Parkway facilities. Parkway lands and interpretive facilities, if properly developed, can serve as an outdoor classroom and provide access and facilities for unique educational opportunities.

Encourage intergovernmental cooperation for various river initiatives.

Development of the Heritage Parkway should serve as an opportunity to coordinate and integrate various planning and development efforts related to improvement of the river as both a natural and cultural resource. Cooperation of all levels of government will be needed to make the Parkway a reality and a success.

Cooperate on development of recreational and open space opportunities.

State, county and municipal governments all have plans identifying the need for additional recreation facilities and open space. The proposed Parkway provides the opportunity and structure to meet many of these needs including the continued operation of the locks. Local governments, state government, and local interests can work together to fund and develop recreational facilities to meet identified needs.

Cooperate to meet resource protection and water quality improvement goals.

Numerous plans developed by all levels of government, various organizations and industry identify various measures for improving the quality of the rivers as a resource as well as improving and protecting water quality. The Parkway will benefit from these measures and will increase usability for fishing, boating, and other forms of recreation as identified in various plans. The Parkway and adjacent lands, if properly developed, can serve as buffer zones to separate more intensive urban uses associated with increased runoff.

Support property rights.

The Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway supports the protection of private property rights in the proposed Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway area. The boundaries of the NHA are not regulatory, and therefore do not place restrictions on any landowner regarding land use. The NHA designation does not alter zoning, land uses, and cannot be used for land-use regulation.

The physical boundaries of the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage area mark a region where our national story can be told and interpreted. The boundaries represent an area where the objective is to enhance coordination and communication of historical, cultural, and recreational activities to better share the area’s rich resources. It is the story of people, our cultural and historic sites, living traditions, and the natural treasures of the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway that we are sharing with residents and visitors.