FREP has joined with the Southeast Wisconsin Fox River Partnership and the Village of Waterford, Wisconsin, to pursue the designation of all or portions of the Fox River in Wisconsin and Illinois as a National Water Trail through the National Park Services' National Water Trail System. Technical assistance from the NPS Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program has been awarded and planning is now proceeding.
The current Core Development Team Karen Miller, FREP; Angie Tornes, National Park Service; Greg Farnham, Rock River Trail Initiative; Brian Daly, CMAP; Tom Slawski, Southeast Wisconsin Fox River Partnership; Rick Kania, SEWRPC; Jodie Auliff, Illinois Paddling Council; and Barb Messick and Rebecca Ewald, Village of Waterford, WI.
Initiative Planning Updates:
1-23-17  Joe Keller, Executive Director of the Fox Waterway Agency hosted the Core Development Team (CDT) on January 9, 2017 in Fox Lake. The Team discussed the map Karen Miller is creating illustrating access site, dam and segment data currently available from historical sources. Brian Daly confirmed CMAP is able to store data generated by the Water Trail Initiative.

Angie Tornes mentioned a graphic artist she knows and provided an estimate of the items he could produce (logo, brochure, composite map, interactive website, online map, etc.) Karen will request a similar estimate from a company she is aware of including the possibility of making a short video.

The Team discussed developing a budget over the next few months and possible sources of funding. The CDT will work with FREP to develop a new Fox River Watershed poster. Joe would like to add the water trail map when it is completed to the Fox Waterway Agency’s app. Tom Slawski, Rick Kania and Brian will develop a large map of the work the CDT has done so far to be displayed at the Fox River Summit on March 10th.

The CDT agreed to begin holding interactive public meetings after Illinois completes data collection. Barb Messick will draft a letter updating the Initiative to be sent to those who expressed interest. Angie and Karen described the Kane County Planners Holiday Forum they spoke at in Montgomery, Illinois on December 2nd and presented the Village’s artwork as part of their Initiative called “Montgomery in Motion” that was painted in the street in front of Village Hall. (see pdf) Joe described a project the Fox Waterway Agency is working on to restore an island in Fox Lake that has been eroded to only about a couple of acres.

The CDT will next meet on Tuesday February 21st at a location to be determined.
12-5-16  The Core Development Team met on Monday November 28th in Silver Lake, Wisconsin. Matthew Collins, Director of Kenosha County Parks and Recreation spoke to the Team about their water trail, access sites and signage.  Matthew offered his support of the Wisconsin-Illinois Fox River Water Trail Initiative. The Team’s newest member, Greg Taylor, attended the November meeting. Greg is an active member of the Illinois Paddling Council and has offered to be the coordinator of volunteers in Illinois. The Team continued to revise the data collection forms for segment data.  Karen talked about Illinois dam data acquired from the Fox River Study Group.  Angie confirmed with Brian that CMAP will be able to print maps of the water trail as they are created and provide an online portal. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday January 9th, location to be determined. 
10-26-16: The Core Development Team (CDT) enjoyed the beautiful fall weather and colors at our monthly meeting at Lost Valley Visitor Center in Glacial Park on Monday October 17th.  We are inching ever so closer to having the survey to collect access site, dam and segment data and including the ability to upload photos completed and available through Google Drive for volunteers to use on their smartphones or tablets.  Barb Messick and Rebecca Ewald continue to collect data on the Wisconsin side of the Fox River.

Karen Miller is beginning to sort through data on the Illinois side collected by a variety of sources beginning in 1999.  Once Karen has determined what needs to be updated and collected, the new volunteer coordinator for Illinois, Greg Taylor will work with volunteers to collect the data needed.  Greg has eagerly offered to take on this responsibility. He has experience organizing for the Boy Scouts and is active with the Illinois Paddling Council and Prairie Rivers Network.

The CDT is looking forward to working with Greg. Sigrid Pilgrim from the IPC sent Karen a DVD with information about the Fox River assembled by Ralph Frese, “canoe maker and conservationist and prominent figure in the North American canoeing circles lived from 1926 until December 10, 2012. Frese lived in the Chicago area. He is known for promoting conservation and canoeing, building historic replica canoes, and starting canoeing and conservation organizations and events” (Wikipedia).  The CDT plans to continue discussion on budget, funding and the examples of logos Angie sent to the Team and the several logos Barb designed and offered as possibilities.  Greg Farnham, Coordinator of the Rock River Trail Initiative, described the several trails affiliated with the original project including water, bike, walking, driving, air and chocolate.  Greg reminded the Team of the need to eventually request local governments and organizations pass resolutions supporting the Fox River Water Trail.  With the exception of the CDT’s first meeting at Wingspread in Racine, Wisconsin, the CDT has been alternating between Glacial Park in McHenry County and Waterford, Wisconsin.  The Team discussed meeting at other locations along the Fox River.  
9-21-16  The Core Development Team met in Waterford, Wisconsin on Sept. 15th. Thanks to Barb Messick from Waterford, we are nearing the final version of the online survey to collect data at each access site, dam and segment along the Fox River. Once it is finalized volunteers will be able to access the survey and complete it from their smartphones or tablets. Brian Daly at CMAP is working with data from the Northeastern Illinois Water Trails Map created by Openlands, the Illinois Paddling Council and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources created in 2007 so we can determine what data needs to be updated and added. Greg Farnham from the Rock River Trail Initiative brought several books that include information about the Fox River and examples of logos.    
8-24-16  The Core Development Team met at Lost Valley Nature Center in McHenry County on August 15th.  We continued to discuss the access and dam data available for the Wisconsin portion of the Fox River.  The team also refined the survey that will be available to the public to help collect data in Illinois.  That tool will be available soon and we are looking for volunteers to help collect that data. It’s a great opportunity to get out on the River!  The Team is also looking for one or more persons to coordinate volunteers along the Fox River either for the state of Illinois or for each of the Counties in Illinois.  Click here for the job description.   If you are interested in volunteering to collect data and/or to coordinate volunteers please contact Karen Ann Miller.
7-26-16  On Monday July 18th the Core Development Team met in the Village of Waterford, Wisconsin. The Team congratulated Waterford on a successful ribbon cutting of two new canoe and kayak launches on the Fox River.  Several dignitaries spoke including the National Park Service’s Angie Tornes who is providing technical assistance for the Fox River Water Trail Initiative. Work continues on developing an app-based survey that can be used to collect data on access sites, river segments and dams along the Fox River.

Anyone interested in collecting data please contact the Core Development Team at
6-6-16  The Core Development Team met on June 6th at Lost Valley Nature Center in McHenry County.  The members in attendance discussed currently existing access site data for Wisconsin and what is needed.  The data will be given to the Counties to check for accuracy. A Google Doc of the draft spreadsheet containing categories of data to be collected at access sites in both Wisconsin and Illinois was created.  Once that document is finalized the Team will look for individuals interested in collecting access site data.  The Team is also looking for a regional agency to house the data, maps, etc.  The Team will be submitting a letter to the National Park Service requesting another year of technical assistance from Angie Tornes.  
5-25-16  The 4th Annual Fox River Summit held in Burlington, Wisconsin on March 18th  provided an opportunity to network with fellow Fox River stakeholders and for co-chairs Rebecca Ewald and Karen Miller to provide an update on the Wisconsin-Illinois Fox River Water Trail Initiative.

On April 4th the Core Development Team held their monthly meeting at the Lost Valley Visitor Center in McHenry County to begin discussion on the data to be collected on existing conditions at access points, dams and portages along the Fox River and agencies or organizations that may have that data or have volunteers willing to assist in the collection of that data.  Greg Farnham, Coordinator of the Rock River Trail Initiative found that dividing the River into sections made data collection more manageable.  Angie Tornes from the National Park Service began a discussion about defining “accessibility” and will provide more guidance.  The Team also discussed existing maps and potential funding sources that may prove helpful in the process of developing the Water Trail.

The Core Development Team met in Waterford, Wisconsin on May16th.  The Team finalized the data to be collected about access sites, dams and portages and further discussed who may be interested in assisting.  Rick Kania from SEWRPC proposed a map he designed that illustrated dividing the Fox River into segments by County for ease of data collection.  The Team is also looking for a regional agency or organization willing and able to hold the data collected with access for future updates. Funding needs and possible sources was also discussed.

The Team anticipates that data collection and draft map production may occur this summer and fall with public outreach to identify additional partners and review the proposed map may happen in winter and spring of 2017.  Angie requested Karen draft a letter to the National Park Service requesting her technical assistance for another year.
3-21-16  The Core Development Team of the WI-IL Fox River Water Trail Initiative met on March 7th in beautiful Waterford, Wisconsin next to the Fox River. We discussed a possible one-mile boundary from the bank of the Fox River for development of the Water Trail Map. Barb Messick wrote the letter introducing the Initiative which was sent to many stakeholders on March 15th.  Additional stakeholders will be added to the database and will also receive the letter. The Team talked about collecting access site data. The next meeting is scheduled for April 4th at the Lost Valley Visitor Center in Glacial Park, McHenry County. Rebecca Ewald and Karen Miller, co-chairs of the Core Development Team presented on the Initiative at the Fox River Summit on March 18th in Burlington, Wisconsin.  Announcement Letter
The third meeting was held on January 4, 2016. The next meeting is February 8, 2016.

Brian Daly from CMAP is the newest member of our Team but was unable to attend on the 7th. Brian will determine if CMAP can assist us with mapping.  Tom Slawski is still waiting to hear back from the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission about their interest/willingness in providing mapping assistance.

We decided upon a Mission Statement. We brainstormed a Vision Statement and Barb Messick will wordsmith a draft for the next meeting. Angie provided examples of vision, mission statements and goals developed for other water trails as well as resources available on water trail planning from the National Park Service. She also suggested we look at the Iowa DNR Water Trail website and the resources offered through American Trails.

Greg Farnham prepared a list of contacts for the municipalities along the Fox River. The Team discussed existing maps of the Fox River and how they may be a valuable resource as we develop the Water Trail. 

After the meeting Karen forwarded information about the Northeastern Il Water Trails Map Summary and the Northeastern Il Regional Greenways and Trail Map. We discussed where the headwaters of the Fox River are located. 

After the meeting, Tom Slawski checked the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ surface water data viewer website and  was able to confirm that although a very small portion of the Upper Fox River Watershed is located in Colgate, Washington County, the real stream of the Fox River actually begins in the Town of Lisbon, Waukesha County. So, it is much more accurate to say that the “Fabulous” Fox River begins in the Town of Lisbon. In addition, Lannon Creek, which is the first named creek that joins with the Fox River also originates in the Town of Lisbon.
2014-15 FREP first learned about the NPS Water Trails System at the 2014 Annual Fox River Summit and also at a FREP program where Angie Tornes from the NPS was invited to provide more details on the National Water Trails System. FREP formed a committee to pursue technical assistance to develop an application for National Water Trails System designation on one or more areas of the Fox River. On July 31, 2015, FREP submitted an application to the National Park Service for technical assistance. The Southeast Wisconsin Fox River Partnership and the town of Waterford, Wisconsin are partnering with FREP on this initiative.
On 10-6-15 FREP received notice of approval for the technical assistance.  pdf of acceptance letter
The National Water Trails System, established by the National Park Service (NPS), is a network of water trails the public can explore and enjoy. The network is overseen by a community of water resource managers who benefit from ongoing information sharing and collaboration. The System serves to bring existing and newly identified water trails together into one cohesive national network.
The NPS Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program offers technical assistance for water trail development and can culminate in designation as part of the National Water Trails System.
National Water Trails System
National Park Service
NPS Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program
Rock River Trail Website
If you are interested in joining the committee to pursue the Fox River Water Trail designation,
please contact Karen Ann Miller
Core Development Team
Meeting Minutes
WI-IL Fox River National Water Trail Initiative 3-16-16 presentation at Fox River Summit
Karen Miller, AICP, Kane County
  Development Department, IL
& Rebecca Ewald, Administrator,
  Village of Waterford
Fox River Water Trail Initiative Committee Presentation  5-12-15
Fox River Summit 2014 - National Water Trail Systems & technical program assistance to help  communities develop water and land trails
Angie Tornes, National Park Service, Rivers & Trails Program
  LINK Part 1   LINK Part 2
Fox River Summit 2015
Establishing and Promoting a System of Recreational Trails for the Rock River
   Greg Farnham, Coordinator of the Rock River Trail Initiative

 The Rock River Trail Initiative: Its History, Vision and Goals
   Frank Schier, Founder and Coordinator of the Rock River Trail Initiative
Examples of Signage from other National Water Trail sites: