Nelson Family Heritage Crossing Opens to the Public

Published Friday, June 4, 2021
by Brittany Simonson

The long-awaited Nelson Family Heritage Crossing officially opens to the public on Friday, June 18th. The crossing is a 1,100-foot bicycle and pedestrian bridge between Heesakker Park in the Village of Little Chute and a new rail trail connection to Downtown Kaukauna.

The Nelson Family Heritage Crossing broke ground in August of 2020. Thanks in large part to community donors such as the David and Rita Nelson Family Fund, this $3.5 million vision has become a reality. The municipalities have received over $2.7 million in grants and private donations towards this project, with the remaining funding being split equally between the Village and the City.

Little Chute Village President Mike Vanden Berg said, “We are excited that the David and Rita Nelson Family Heritage Crossing is opening this summer.  The project is a great example of cooperation and will provide recreational opportunities for residents and visitors for generations to come.  Our many thanks to the many stakeholders who made this vital recreation project a reality.”

This crossing offers a unique perspective in the middle of the Fox River and serves as a new gateway between the revitalizing downtown districts in Little Chute and Kaukauna. Residents and visitors alike will be able to enjoy this crossing while walking, biking, running, birdwatching and fishing just to name a few. Trails leading to the crossing, as well as the crossing itself, are handicap accessible and lit during dusk hours. Trail hours are from dawn to 11:00 PM.

Bicycle and pedestrian trail amenities attract people and spending to our area. An estimated $535 million dollars was spent by out-of-state bicycle tourists in the state of Wisconsin in 2016. While the crossing brings benefits to residents and visitors, it also increases tourism spending to both municipalities and local businesses.

“The completion of the Nelson Family Heritage Crossing is yet another progressive first for both Kaukauna and Little Chute,” said Tony Penterman, City of Kaukauna Mayor.  “This public-private partnership has transformed the historic uses of the river and rail bed (for private, commercial activity) to a new use that returns the river to the public. It is yet another amenity that makes Little Chute and Kaukauna destinations for visitors to the Fox Valley, too.”

From Little Chute, the Crossing can be accessed via trail from either Island Park (100 Monroe Street) or Heesakker Park (a small lot at the end of Sanitorium Road or street parking on Lincoln Avenue or Garfield Avenue).

The Nelson Family Heritage Crossing is accessible from Downtown Kaukauna via sidewalk connection and a paved trail along 3rd Street. A trailhead parking lot is available off Bicentennial Court. From Downtown Kaukauna, the walking distance to the bridge is approximately one mile, and is roughly ¾ of a mile from the trailhead parking lot.

Both municipalities plan to work together in the future to have their access trails, as well as the crossing, open year-round.

A big thanks to project supporters and stakeholders - David and Rita Nelson Family Fund, Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, WI DNR, Outagamie County, Unison Credit Union, Fox Cities Greenways, Land & Water Conservation Fund, and many others! With their support, we have a wonderful recreation addition to the Fox Cities.

An invitation-only ribbon cutting for major stakeholders (media also welcome) will be held on Friday, June 18th at 10:00am. The crossing will open to the public following that ceremony.

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