Fox Wisconsin Heritage Parkway

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

Chapter 9: Public Involvement

The following is a description of the public involvement, communication, and consultation strategy which the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway Executive Committee undertook in preparation for the NHA Feasibility Study. The original visioning and creation of the Heritage Parkway concept began twenty years ago, and came together from a wide ranging community effort. This latest Feasibility Study preparation was seen by much of the community to be a continuation of the project, not as the start of a new initiative. Therefore, the ideas presented did originate from a facilitated grassroots approach and are being reintroduced for dialogue.

History of Public Participation

The public participation history of the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway project extends back two decades, to 1989 when the initial concept for creation of a NHA was first expressed in an ECWRPC report entitled “Lower Fox River/Winnebago Pool Long Range Plan.” The plan called for the renovation of the historic lock system. After publishing the report, several organizations and individuals took up the cause, most notably Friends of the Fox, led by John Forster, and State Representative David Prosser. By 1990, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Wisconsin Department of Tourism took notice, creating the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway, a tourism pilot project. Significant public interest and support for the Parkway was gained through these efforts.

Public input called for the continuation and expansion of this project. Thus, in 1992, the ECWRPC and the Fox Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau solicited an Economic Development Administration grant to prepare the “Fox River Corridor Feasibility Study.” This study, prepared by LDR International, evaluated tourism and economic impacts of the creation of a NHA. The study recommended the NHA to include the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers, an initiative supported by the public.

In the mid-1990s, several committees were formed in support of the project. After several months of meetings, a series of reports were produced, reflecting the public input that was generated over the length of the newly envisioned Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway. In 1997, ECWRPC updated and expanded the Parkway plan based on the input from these committees and evolving events. Following significant public involvement on the Parkway concept over several years, serious negotiations with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ensued. Led by Friends of the Fox and the ECWRPC, and championed by our federal legislatures, the transfer of the Fox Locks System finally took place in 2004.

Over the past five years, the Friends of the Fox citizen organization and the ECWRPC, attention has once again been focused back toward the creation of the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway and its designation as a NHA. Countless man hours have gone into meetings with local communities and stakeholder groups representing such diverse interests as economic development, recreation, natural resource protection, cultural heritage sites, and historic societies. As the project continued to gain recognition and momentum, local officials and community attractions from the Portage area historic canal joined that joined the two rivers became engaged in the project. The Friends of the Fox, representing the Upper and Lower Fox River, has now been joined by their counterpart, Friends of the Lower Wisconsin, on the Lower Wisconsin River. The Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board, a state agency, has also partnered with the project, sharing common interests with the two citizen groups. Over the past year, with a grand coalition of all these citizen-based groups and the financial support of several community foundations, organizations, and individuals, a Heritage Parkway Advisory Committee has been formed to work with all of these entities to establish the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway as a NHA.

Public Meetings

Dialogues with civic groups and general public.

These dialogues explain the concept, boundaries, and themes of the Heritage Parkway and seek civic groups’ input on ideas, concepts, and how the Heritage Parkway will integrate with the community.

Friends of the Fox and ECWRPC representatives held a preliminary introductory session in early 2008, and then brought together an executive committee and advisory committee to begin working on the strategy for the study. Once potential themes were established and there were substantive ideas for which reaction could be sought, community presentations began. The first was in January 2009, and they will continue through the fall. The following is a list of all meetings that have been conducted or planned throughout the completion of this study in June 2009.

Fox Cities Chamber Local Officials Meeting
Appleton, WI
Outagamie County
January 10, 2008

Lower Fox Partnership Group Meeting
Green Bay, WI
Brown County
February 10, 2008

Friends of the Fox Annual Meeting
Oshkosh, WI
Winnebago County
May 28, 2008

Riverheath Development Project Meeting
Menasha, WI
Winnebago County
May 22, 2008

Riverfront Advocacy and Promotion Group
Appleton, WI
Outagamie County
January 14, 2009

Fox Cities Greenways Annual Meeting
Appleton, WI
Outagamie County
January 29, 2009

Upper Wisconsin stakeholders
Portage, WI
Columbia County
February 16, 2009

Ashwaubenon Business Association
Ashwaubenon, WI
Brown County
March 24, 2009

Historical listening sessions.

These meetings brought together local historical societies from a specific region to explain the Heritage Parkway project and seek input and information on historical sites and events that have a connection with the themes of the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway.

Friends of the Fox held four historical listening sessions, one each in the Lower Fox region, Upper Fox region, Winnebago Lake region, and Lower Wisconsin region. All historical Societies from communities along the particular stretch of river (or the City of Fond du Lac), as well as other interested parties, were invited to participate.

Lower Fox Historical Listening Session
Appleton, WI
Outagamie County
November 11, 2008

Upper Fox Historical Listening Session
Berlin, WI
Green Lake County
March 24, 2009

Fond du Lac Historical Listening Session
Fond du Lac, WI
Fond du Lac County
April 28, 2009

Lower Wisconsin Historical Listening Session
Spring Green, WI
Sauk County
July 2009

Follow up.

Each of the groups reached in the public meetings will receive a follow up to share the completed feasibility study and the proposed next steps. Input on specific projects, signage, interpretation, and partnerships will be collected and heavily relied upon.

A copy of the completed feasibility study, a description of the steps to be taken next, and a form to return for comments and questions will be sent electronically via email or in hard copy via U.S. mail beginning May 7, 2009 with a requested response date of June 12, 2009.

Interviews and Informational Discussions

Dialogues with local governments.

These individual community meetings are held with each community on the system and include elected and appointed officials, planning departments, and park and recreation departments. These presentations explain the concept of the Heritage Parkway, the boundaries, and the themes. While the initial focus of the meeting is to inform the community of the project, the larger goal is to seek municipal involvement and the gathering of local level knowledge.

ECWRPC took the lead in setting these meetings and made the presentations with the support of Friends of the Fox. Every community along the system has, or will, receive a presentation between April of 2008 and December of 2009. Southwest Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and the FLOW will assist when needed.

City of Berlin, WI
Green Lake County
April 28, 2008

City of Wrightstown, WI
Brown County
May 20, 2008

City of Kaukauna, WI
Outagamie County
May 20, 2008

City of Kimberly, WI
Outagamie County
May 20, 2008

City of De Pere, WI
Brown County
May 21, 2008

City of Combined Locks, WI
Outagamie County
May 22, 2008

Princeton City Council, Princeton, WI
Green Lake County
January 27, 2009

City of Portage, WI
Columbia County
February 16, 2009

City of Muscoda, WI
Grant County
March 23, 2009

City of Spring Green, WI
Sauk County
March 23, 2009

City of Fond du Lac, WI
Fond du Lac County
April 28, 2009

City of Prairie du Chien, WI
Crawford County
July 2009

City of Boscobel, WI
Grant County
July 2009

Creation of Citizen Advisory Committee.

A committee is formed consisting of experts in the areas of education, environmental advocacy, municipal planning, marketing, public relations, and grant making. They are consulted at critical times during the study and planning process and asked to contribute advice and contacts.

Informational Materials

Electronic newsletter.

Creation and distribution of an electronic newsletter that is delivered on a quarterly basis to those affected by or interested in the Parkway, as well as community, state, and federal representatives.

Newsletters have been created and distributed in fall of 2008, winter of 2008, spring of 2009, and summer of 2009 and will continue to go out on a quarterly basis.

Brochure/marketing material.

One set of marketing materials will be used as a fundraising and friendraising tool at the beginning of the Heritage Parkway planning process. This will serve to increase awareness and partnerships throughout the corridor. A second set of marketing materials will be created in conjunction with the Department of Tourism for the purpose of drawing visitors to the area from surrounding towns as well as states.

Creation of fundraising materials will begin in June 2009. A date has not been determined for the creation of the visitation materials.

Distribution of articles in newspapers and newsletters.

Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway articles are placed in regional and community newspapers. Relationships are fostered with area non-profits and permission is gained to place Heritage Parkway articles in their newsletters to be distributed to their membership.

Friends of the Fox produces a quarterly newsletter which regularly highlights progress made on the Heritage Parkway as well as historical points of interest. Fox Cities Greenways and Winnebago Lakes Council have produced articles on the Parkway. Numerous community and regional newspapers have run stories on the Parkway, and others will be approached to do so.

Website.

A website is created and dedicated to the Heritage Parkway with support from the Department of Tourism and the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Currently, the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway is discussed in detail on the Friends of the Fox website. This will serve the project until the marketing campaigns begin in the summer of 2009.

Consultation

Consultation with the Wisconsin Historical Society, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, WDNR.

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and NPS policy require federal agencies to consult with the SHPO and interested persons before undertaking an action on historic properties. Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act requires all federal agencies to consult with the USFW to ensure that any action authorized, funded or carried out by a federal agency does not jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or critical habitat.

A completed draft of the feasibility study was forwarded to the Wisconsin Historical Society with a “Request for SHPO Comment and Consultation on a Federal Undertaking” form in early May 2009. USFW was consulted and asked for input on the Affected Environment Chapter during compilation of the study. A completed draft of the feasibility study was submitted to USFW for official comment in April 2009. A completed draft of the feasibility study was submitted to the WDNR for official comment in April 2009.

Consultation with American Indian Tribes in area.

Indian tribes with significant connections to the Parkway were contacted for consultation several times. Tribal historic preservation officers from the Ho-Chunk, Menominee, and Oneida tribes were sent a completed draft of the feasibility study to review.