$100,000 grant to help build tourism center on Fox Locks

Fox Locks Appleton
Fox Locks Appleton

APPLETON -  The 17 locks being restored on the Fox River from De Pere upriver to Menasha are set to all be open by next year.  Half of them have been open for at least 3 years and will re-open for the season next week.

The hand-operated locks, built in the 1850's, shut down in the 1980's.

"It's all hand-made.  So it was important to stabilize this and try not to lose any of it," explained Bob Stark, the COO for the Fox River Navigational System Authority.

In 2004 th Fox River Navigational System Authority took control of restoring and reopening the locks when the Army Corps of Engineers pulled out.

Now the authority is planning another project to cap off the work, and will use a $100,000 tourism development grant from the Fox Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau to help do so.

"It's our way we reinvest room tax dollars back into the community to develop our tourism product. The reason they received this grant is we believe they have the potential to generate tourism as those locks are fully restored," explained CVB executive Director Pam Seidl.

The plan is to put a tourism center at lock number three in Appleton.

The center will provide travelers with a rest stop and also an interactive history of the Fox River Locks.

"That will honor those who have contributed to the restoration project, but also to recognize the history and heritage that's being preserved," Stark explained.

"It's gone from what was a working river, you know, there was obviously a reason for paper mills to have those locks, to now more recreational, boating," added Seidl.

Stark told FOX 11, for a long time the river was a sort of back door to the community, a dumping ground.  Now, he told us, it's becoming the front door and there need to be amenities for people who want to use it.

"Yhe river's what brought us all here.  The river's what brought industry.  It's a really exciting time to take back our river and rediscover this Fox River," said Stark.

Although the River Authority says it doesn't yet know exactly how much the center will cost, they have already been raising money and expect construction to begin next year.