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Legislation makes way for new visitor center

Posted on April 15, 2016 by Amy Hanson
Photo by Ruth Ann Heeter, FOX CITIES Magazine

Gov. Scott Walker speaks in Appleton Thursday. Photo by Ruth Ann Heeter, FOX CITIES Magazine

Gov. Scott Walker visited Appleton’s Lock No. 3 Thursday and signed a bill that broadens the scope of authority and responsibilities of the Fox River Navigational System Authority. “The legislation amends state statute Chapter 237, the law that establishes and outlines the duties of the FRNSA,” according to a press release.

Under the new legislation, the FRNSA will now be able to develop and manage property adjacent to the locks. Wisconsin owns the 17-lock system on the Fox River that is maintained and operated by the FRNSA.

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Gov. Scott Walker. Photo by Ruth Ann Heeter, FOX CITIES Magazine

The Wisconsin Department of Administration, sponsored by state senators Roger Roth, Robert Cowles, Dave Hansen, Frank Lasee and state representatives Jim Steineke, Amanda Stuck, Alvin Ott, Mike Rohrkaste, Michael Schraa, David Murphy and Gordon Hintz developed the cooperative legislation.

“Our long-range goal is to improve access to the locks for boaters and pedestrians,” says Tim Rose, chairman of the FRNSA board of directors, in the release. “We have made substantial investments in renovating the locks, and its time for the public to enjoy this resource.”

A visitor center, proposed two years ago, is now planned to be available at Lock No. 3, adjacent to Newberry Trail near the Eagle Flats Neighborhood. Plans are to break ground in 2017 on the two-story, 4,800-square-foot building, which will be funded by a grant from the Fox Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau, private donations and a fundraising campaign. It is designed as a multimedia museum/educational center for area residents with interactive exhibits, classroom space, a scenic overlook and public facilities on the lower level. It will house an interpretive center to explain the history and future of the Fox River Locks System.

FRNSA completed a 10-year project in August 2015 to restore and renovate all 16 working locks on the lower Fox River. The system is now operational for the first time in 30 years. More than $14.5 million of federal, state and private funds were invested to complete the project. Locks in Kaukauna are scheduled for full operation in 2017.

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