Fox Locks visitors center project not moving forward

Published: Aug. 27, 2020 at 4:30 PM CDT
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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - A development project along the Fox River in Appleton will no longer be happening. The Fox River Navigational System Authority voted to stop all action on the proposed Fox Locks visitors center.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a great season of boating and record use of the Fox Locks system. Action 2 News first told you last month, the Fox River Navigational System Authority had doubled its lock usage numbers from the year before, and that was with more than two months left in the season.

CEO Jeremy Cords says, “We’ve had more boats go through, more passengers go through this year than we’ve had over the last three years.”

But the pandemic has also kept people from gathering in large groups, and as the Fox Locks looked to the future, its board decided there was no way it could continue with plans to build a visitors center at Appleton Lock 3.

“Because of the current situation with COVID, and with the volatility of the markets and the prolonged, for unforeseeable future, of social distancing that we just didn’t think it was responsible use of the funds to continue to plan that project,” says Cords.

The concept for the multi-million dollar facility was unveiled a couple of years ago. In addition to housing offices, the two to three story building was going to be an interactive museum and education center -- a place where school children and others could come and learn more about the history and operation of the locks, year round.

Cords adds, “You can see the locks individually at many locations and everybody should have an opportunity to do that. It’s just unfortunate that we won’t be able to do it at that location, inside of a building.”

Looking to the future, the FRNSA doesn’t anticipate it will ever build a visitors center. Instead, it will probably look at other options in the years to come.

According to Cords, “We want to try and figure out a way to do some interpretation and give a better description of who we are, what we are, and the impact that they locks have had over the last 150 years.”

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