We write this article to promote and protect our local waterways! We stumbled across a strange issue in 2017 and have been asking questions and trying to come to a resolution ever since. The answers (or lack thereof) have been concerning and we wanted to share with everyone where we are now!
The point of concern is the Liberty to freely travel the Fox River.
There is a beautiful paddling route between Thousand Islands Environmental Center, in Kaukauna, and Wrightstown that includes portaging around a lock called Rapide Croche.
Although the lock itself has been closed for many years, paddlers have traveled/portaged the route since fur traders and settlers first arrived here.
Check out this article, featured on Paddling.com, describing a group of people paddling/portaging this wonderful route: https://paddling.com/paddle/trips/fox-river-in-wisconsin/?lat=44.2001&lng=-88.2846&zoom=10
It is important to note that only when the Fox River Navigational System Authority (FRNSA) became aware of our adventure route did they started restricting freedom of passage for paddlers portaging. Their claim is due to non-native species. This claim is confusing, as they refuse to detail the species specifically and ignore the fact that many people (for decades) have portaged this route without “contamination”. Additionally, the Menasha lock is currently closed for similar concerns of non-native species, but remains open to portaging.
How did we get here:
– Since 2016 we have offered and supported a kayaking route from Kaukauna to Wrightstown. (We created this route by following where others have gone many times before) We have taken customers through this route safely and paddled it ourselves following a well beaten path established by prior use.
– Robert Stark (former CEO of Fox River NSA) established blockage of portaging in 2017, by hanging a rope with a no trespassing sign. No environmental study, specific to this route, was provided and laws clearly protect freedom of passage to portage all locks/dams on Fox River. We provided multiple requests with no resolution.
– We sat down for a mediated meeting with Tim Rose (representing FRNSA) led by the Mayor of Menasha, Don Merkes in Summer 2017. Again, no resolution was found.
– Jeremy Cords is the new CEO and after brief discussion in 2018, blatantly disregarded our concerns for community passage for safely portaging.
– We met with Mayor of Kaukauna, Tony Penterman, and State Rep. Steineke twice in Summer 2018. FRNSA and DNR representatives were invited to both meetings but did not attend. Again, no resolution was found.
– We talked to Senator Cowles’ office and they reached out to FRNSA twice to try to come to a successful solution, but FRNSA/DNR/Board of Directors have not been cooperative in resolving this issue in Fall 2018.
– Most recently, we have reached out, again, to FRNSA to speak to Board Members about their decisions and the future. Currently the FRNSA is concealing the Board Members contact information, Spring 2019.
This is a beautiful historic route for the community and visitors to enjoy, but the unlawful actions by FRNSA, their board members, and DNR threaten the safety and freedom of passage in the local area. Through this action this hurts tourism and small businesses.
We fully respect the delicate ecosystems of the waterways – we have requested guidance and more scientific data regarding potential hazards to the ecosystem and have not heard anything back from FRNSA or DNR for years.
Where is the environmental study that was conducted before making such a drastic decision to stop portaging when it has been demonstrated to be safe? Why can we not have access to the scientist who conducted this study for further questions and insight?
The Fox River Kayaking Co team consists of environmentalists, conservationists, and community leaders simply trying to promote our local waterways to everyone who wants to explore them!
We encourage everyone to take an interest in their waterways as the future is being planned today! If you are interested in getting involved, please feel free to contact us!
For more information on portaging, please check out these articles: