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First Annual Illinois Water Trail Conference

Held Monday, October 15th, 2018


and the Potawatomi Paddlers Association

See full program details below.


October 15, 2018 – Four Rivers Environmental Educational Center, Channahon, Illinois


Introductions and Conference Purpose– Tom Eckels, President, IPC

Here, Where Water Trails Meet– Ralph Schultz, Forest Preserves of Will County

What is a Water Trail and the Paddling Environment– Sigrid Pilgrim, Director, IPC


Northeastern Illinois Regional Water Trails– Brief History – Laura Barghusen, Openlands

Lake Michigan Water Trail– Dan Plath, NPS + NE Indiana Paddlers Association

Pecatonica River Water Trail & Friends of the Pecatonica Foundation– Joe Ginger

Lincoln Heritage Water Trail– Scott Hewitt

Kankakee River Water Trail– Craig Farnsworth, Hitchcock Design Group

Wisconsin-Illinois Fox River Water Trail Initiative– Karen Miller


How to Establish a Water Trail – from a, b, c and all the way to z

Planning, Access, Navigability Laws, Working with State, County, Local, Private Landowners

Karen Miller – Fabulous Fox!

  • In process of developing the water trail, have enlisted volunteers to compile data and conditions at access points, turning info in creating maps and brochures,
  • development of working partnership which is from municipalities in both Illinois and Wisconsin

Joe Ginger – The Pecatonica River Water Trail

  • Planning and building access points
  • Learning and discoveries in planning the hard way
  • Building access with big equipment

Kindy Kruller – Multiple rivers and projects

  • Planning and plans, review of waterways, new canoe launches, designed 4 more, planning required ADA
  • MPC Great rivers Chicago – expanding to include some of the suburbs, looking at how to celebrate waterways
  • Taken on dam removal and land use planning
  • Latest and greatest approaches for launch and landings to consistent facilities

Scott Hays – Sangamon River in Champaign County

  • Law designated Champaign sections of Sangamon as non-navigable – plan in place from Fisher to Monticello may aid in installation of trail
  • Issues, challenges and problems during early on planning, paddling rivers are behind what has been done in metropolitan areas
  • Stewardship, relatively narrow, clearing and stream maintenance: water trail keepers/volunteers
  • Key challenges and big wins

Making Your Water Trail Happen – Tips and Tools

  • Finding Funding
  • Organizing the Organization
  • Publicity/Publications
  • Promotion and Outreach

Joe Ginger – Pecatonica River Water Trail

  • Fundraisers:
  • Two main fundraisers: Spring Thaw and Fall Fish Fry and Silent auction
  • Smaller events: Applebee’s Flap Jack Break and Culvers deliver food to tables/cars
  • Postcards
  • Newsletter
  • Plot and scheme

Lee Butler Pecatonica River Water Trail

  • Outreach and engagement
  • Wednesday paddle
  • Tour de Freeport
  • Flotilla’s (annual events?)
  • Ambassador 10 kayaks invite new paddlers beginner kayaks, cheap stable
  • Volunteer community is what it takes to build a water trail

Dan Garvy – Project: East Branch DuPage River Access

  • Suburban setting
  • Boat access development program
  • Park board provided additional funding
  • Patience in funding

Dan Plath – Northwest Indiana Paddling Association

  • Promoting – through awards, posters, good will with communities and supporters
  • Promotion and outreach – bought trailer and canoes getting people out
  • Being catalyst has leveraged 1million in paddling amenities
  • ADA launches and funding

Dave Longo – Program: Boat Access Development Program

  • Update of program and state funding.

The Living Water Trail

  • Attracting Volunteers
  • Creating Stewards
  • Operating a Water Trail Basics (signage, camp sites, and cleanup)
  • Planning for Safety and Avoiding Pitfalls
  • Organizing and Holding Water Trail Events

Laura Barghusen -Events

  • Using events to introduce water trails and stewardship to new paddlers
  • Using events to offer activities that bring people who want to make a difference in the quality of the environment together for a meaningful and fun activity.
  • Planning for safety during events, and through dissemination of information.

Justin Mercer – Paddling Library

  • How the Maywood Paddling library works
  • How it has increased access to the Des Plaines River.
  • How it could be used as a model for other rivers/areas.

Annette Anderson – Friends Public Canoe Events

  • Friends of the Chicago River’s paddling program and guides
  • How this program increases access to and use of the Chicago Area Waterway System.

Dan Garvy – Planning: Future programing

  • Future programming on the East Branch DuPage River


Carol Hays – Celebrating the 50thAnniversary of the Wild and Scenic River Program

Speakers and Panelists

Annette Anderson, Friends of the Chicago River

Laura Barghusen, Openlands

Diane Banta, National Park Service

Lee Butler, Friends of the Pecatonica Foundation

Tom Eckels, IPC

Craig Farnsworth, Hitchcock Design Group

Dan Garvy, Lisle Park District

Joe Ginger, Friends of the Pecatonica Foundation

Carol Hays, Prairie Rivers Network

Scott Hays, Upper Sangamon Conservancy

Scott Hewitt, Abe Lincoln Heritage Trail

Frank Koehler, Potawatomi Paddlers Association

Kindy Kruller, Forest Preserves of Cook County

Dave Longo, IDNR

Justin Mercer, Forest Preserves of Cook County

Karen Miller, Kane County

Sigrid Pilgrim, IPC

Dan Plath, National Park Service & NE Indiana Paddlers Association

Ralph Schultz, Forest Preserves of Will County