By Roger Schamberger
The Friends of the Pecatonica River Foundation (FPRF) was organized November 13, 2008, as a 501[c]3 not-for-profit organization through the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois. In early 2006, several like-minded individuals worked on the very first landing on Cedarville Road, which is now known as McNeil’s Damascus Landing. This 1.4 acre parcel was purchased for $20,000. The next landing started with the acquisition of 20.74 acres for $10.00 from Stephenson County. This was in May of 2008. It is known as McConnell’s “Bobtown” Landing. Tom Lindblade paddled this 7.9-mile stretch of the Pecatonica River and referred to it as the “Most Friendly Paddle in the State of Illinois.” The next acquisition was 5.35 acres on Farwell Bridge Road, as a donation, on December 30, 2009. This landing is located in eastern Stephenson County and is nearly 70% complete. All landings are publicly owned. The FPRF has a development/management agreement with Stephenson County.
The FPRF is continually working to improve the quality of the Pecatonica River in Stephenson County. The Stephenson County Board recognized the Pecatonica River as a “Blue Trail” in March of 2006. The National Park Service provided a Master Plan Grant to the FPRF for 58 miles of river development in 2010. The Governor’s Hometown Award [GHA], recognizing McNeil’s Damascus Landing, was awarded to the FPRF on October 26, 2011. The Illinois House of Representatives designated the Pecatonica River as a Water Trail in Illinois on February 23, 2012, by way of a resolution written by the FPRF. The National Park Service – Department of the Interior – recognized Atten’s Landing as part of their Rivers and Trails Program. This was the only project in Illinois. We are making great progress.
Our current project is Atten’s Landing. Atten’s Landing was donated for public use by Chuck & Marion Atten. This 5.35 acre parcel is located on the eastern edge of Stephenson County and is our fourth landing on the Pecatonica River. We have four more to go. This project is being developed as a “Wetland” and will have canoe-kayak launch, small motor boat access, and more. The FPRF has moved about 13,800 cubic yards of dirt, built the entry drive and parking area base (elevated about 5’ above existing elevation), buried 675’ of underground electric, installed poles, ADA fishing piers, concrete picnic tables, concrete pads, benches, removed 45+ stumps, and now has 22 new “wetland” trees – donated by The Bruce Company of Verona – planted. All material and labor have been donated to this project. The FPRF survives entirely on donations. There are many kind individuals who recognize what we are doing and why we are doing it. We are extremely grateful for all the support that helps us create facilities that will be enjoyed for many generations.
The FPRF has been very fortunate to have had several pieces of equipment donated to us. We have a 1983 International tandem dump truck, 1994 GMC/White Semi Tractor, a double drop semi-trailer, a 966B CAT endloader (38,798 pound unit), a 960B John Deere excavator (39,543 pound unit), a Ford L9000 truck, and a huge military four-wheel drive dump truck.
We are 100% committed to the Pecatonica River.
The Pecatonica River in Stephenson County has had a significant increase in use in the last seven years. The FPRF is working hard to develop access, promote events, reduce flooding, improve wildlife habitat, increase educational awareness, and provide continued clean-ups. The FPRF has adopted all 58 miles of the river in Stephenson County as our responsibility.
This weekend, the FPRF is finishing the clearing and clean-up of Hancock Marina (named by Lee Butler). Nearly 100 trees, noxious weeds, bushes, and decades of garbage will have been cleared to improve a neglected area in Freeport. It will make a good fishing area, and hopefully, safer parking lot.