APPLETON — If all goes as planned, the Fox River will see brisk traffic this boating season. And if an advocacy group can raise the necessary funds, it should also be safer.
Friends of the Fox wants to place buoys in the water from lock one near the Memorial Drive bridge in Appleton, downstream north to Little Chute. Its goal is to have the navigational aids in place by July 1, in time for the weekend opening of locks one through four in Appleton.
“It’s always much better to have something in the water that you can follow and to know exactly where to go so you don’t hit bottom,” said Candice Mortara, Friends of the Fox president.
The group received the Appleton Common Council’s approval to move forward with plans last Wednesday and will work with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary to identify each buoy’s location.
When they are all installed, there could be as many 10 new buoys, guiding boaters to channels and away from running aground on a bunch of rocks. The cost for each device, with chains and weights, ranges from $700 to $800. The group has sought assistance from the Appleton Yacht Club, which last year made a few purchases.
The navigational aids were removed in the 1980s when the locks closed.
About 18 months ago, as the reopening of the locks grew more certain, the group’s navigational safety committee launched a plan to make the river safer to boaters. Other organizations did not want to assume the responsibility of installing the buoys, said Peter Hensler, Friends of the Fox vice president.
“We are carving out and devising ways for people to use the waterways,” he said.
In addition to opening locks one through four in Appleton, the Fox River Navigational System Authority this year also is opening the Little Kaukauna, Menasha, De Pere and Cedar locks. The Appleton and Cedar locks will be open on weekends from July 2 to Sept. 5.
In a move that is sure to bring business to riverfront eateries and shops, the authority plans to install temporary floating docks for boaters who opt to stop along the waterway. One of those floating docks is adjacent to the S. Olde Oneida Street bridge in Appleton.
“I’m a firm believer that as these things (locks) all open up, there’s not going to be a huge number of boaters that are going to be going all the way from Winnebago to Green Bay, but there’s going to be a lot of boaters who are going to go from Winnebago to Appleton or they are going to go from Appleton up to Little Chute or Kaukauna,” Hensler said. “People will be able to utilize and enjoy the river as we create destinations along the river.”
Friends of the Fox also is supporting a deal between Appleton and Canadian National Railway to close three downtown railroad crossings in exchange for two riverfront trestles.