DIXON – The cool wind may have been brisk, but spirits were high Friday afternoon as a crowd gathered at President’s Park in Dixon for a trail dedication.
The dedication was part of the ongoing effort of the Rock River Trail Initiative to create a 300-mile recognized trail from the Rock River’s source in Fond du Lac, Wis., to the Mississippi River in Rock Island.
Among those who gathered for the dedication were Dixon Mayor Jim Burke, Dixon Park District Executive Director Deb Carey, and members of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
The dedication and ribbon cutting were at the site of the Lincoln Statue at historic President’s Park. Brilliant red- and orange-colored trees served as a background for the speakers during the presentation.
“This river has played such an important historic part in Dixon, and it still is,” Burke said. “There’s so many things that took place along this river. We’re standing right here in a very historic site where Fort Dixon stood, Abraham Lincoln was stationed here, and Black Hawk, the Indians used this river.”
Burke also said there was a large ice industry along the river in the late 1800s. Many industries operated along the river to take advantage of hydroelectric power.
Tthe Rock River is an important part of the city’s economy, he said, in addition to serving as a tourist attraction.
“I think what this Rock River Trial Initiative is doing is just fantastic,” the mayor said. “It’s going to be a great, great marketing tool for tourism.”
Carey said the success of the trail initiative is due to the work of partnerships among many organizations.
“Now we’ve got one more component to having a good area,” she said. “We also have Meadows Park, almost 600 acres with great opportunities for canoeing. And then, of course, we go out to historic Lowell Park, which is the jewel of our Park District.”
Frank Schier, editor and publisher of Rock River Times, said the trail is unique because it offers people a chance to bike, hike, walk and canoe the river.
A new map of the the trail from Oregon to Dixon to Sterling-Rock Falls also was presented. The map breaks down all sites along Section I of the trail, such as Castle Rock State Park in Oregon and Meadows Park in Dixon.
Schier compared the trail to the Appalachian Trail.
“This river has always been a highway,” he said. “I think it’s appropriate that we’re here between two bridges in this community.
“So many times, we see this river as a dividing line between cities, between east and west. Now, with the trail, we’re giving the entire two states the chance to come together in a unifying manner.”
About the group
The Rock River Trail Initiative promotes recreation and tourism of the Rock River.
It was formed by Frank Schier, editor and publisher of Rock River Times.
The group’s first meeting was in April 2010 in Rockford. It has members from multiple counties in Wisconsin and Illinois.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, go to rockrivertrail.com or call Schier at 815-964-9767.