TUTTY’S CROSSING–BIKING, PADDLING, AND WALKING THE RIVERFRONT
Tutty’s Crossing is a place for bringing people together to experience the river as well as to journey out to explore the beautiful terrain of Northwest Illinois by bike. This regional bicycle trailhead and boat access point has been hugely transformed, with support from the U.S. and Illinois Environmental Protection Agencies and many community partners, from the former Burgess Battery brownfield site into a regional recreation asset where the Pecatonica Prairie Trail and Jane Addams Trail converge, where paddlers can launch their canoes and kayaks, and where walkers and bicyclists can cross the river on a new pedestrian/bicycle bridge. The trailhead is named after William “Tutty” Baker, Freeport’s founder.
The Tutty’s Crossing Coalition (TCC) is a citizen-led group that has taken a leadership role in planning, maintenance, and securing resources for amenities at Tutty’s Crossing since 2012. Visit the Tutty’s Crossing Coalition website to learn more about the next steps for Tutty’s.
A Regional Trailhead
The Jane Addams Trail and Pecatonica Prairie Trails that converge at Tutty’s Crossing are not only regional trails, but a part of the Grand Illinois Trail—a 500 mile trail loop that traverses the state. The Grand Illinois Trail then connects with Wisconsin’s Badger State Trail (via the Jane Addams Trail).
In April 2014, the Illinois Department of Transportation awarded Freeport a major grant of $1,521,700 to construct a key remaining section of the Pecatonica Prairie Trail through Freeport as well as to install amenities at Tutty’s Crossing including a shelter building. The proposed route for this new section of the trail will be presented to the Freeport City Council in spring 2015. Design of the trail segment is anticipated to begin in summer 2015, followed by bids for construction in 2016.
Key stakeholder groups that have planned for and advocated for trail system include the Northwest Illinois Trails Foundation, the Pecatonica Prairie Path Commission (made up of the City of Freeport, Freeport Park District, Stephenson County, Rockford Park District, and Winnebago County), and the Freeport/Stephenson County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Paddling the Pecatonica
Tutty’s Crossing is also a key access point for river enthusiasts to launch canoes and kayaks. The current boat launch will be improved now that a $64,600 grant was awarded to the City of Freeport from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to build an accessible floating dock and canoe/kayak launch at Tutty’s.
The Friends of Pecatonica River Foundation (FPRF) is a key stakeholder group whose mission is to “preserve, protect and foster the vitality of the Pecatonica River for the plant, animal and human communities within the Stephenson County, Illinois watershed.” Founded in 2008, this not-for-profit organization hosts annual river cleanups, river flotillas, canoe and kayak launches; publishes a monthly newsletter; and invites the public to their board meetings in Lena, Illinois. To learn more about FPRF or to find out how to become a member visit http://pecriver.org/. The FPRF produced the Pecatonica River Water Trail Plan which outlines a future vision for amenities and improvements to improve accessibility and use of the Pecatonica River water trail (download here – Susan; I’ve saved it in documents to link).
Paddle the Pec is another resource for kayak and canoe enthusiasts to plan their trips.
Future Amenities at Tutty’s Crossing
The Tutty’s Crossing Coalition, City of Freeport, and other partners will continue to advance plans to make Tutty’s a vibrant destination in Freeport’s downtown riverfront. The recently awarded Illinois-DOT grant will provide critical funding for the next steps.
In Fall 2013, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Urban and Regional Planning (URPL) conducted a planning workshop course to provide analysis and ideas for several projects throughout Freeport’s downtown riverfront. The City asked the URPL team to identify potential improvements for Tutty’s. Their recommendations included:
- LED lighting on the pedestrian/bicycle bridge that is not only functional but an aesthetic amenity
- Trailhead Signage that takes into consideration the culture of the city, natural scenery of the area, the intended users of the trail, and the balance of functionality and aesthetics.
Public Art such as statues, sculptures, and street furniture that align with the themes of river, railroad, and former manufacturing that took place on the site.