Visitor's Center planned for Fox Locks system

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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - This weekend may be the end of the season for the Fox River Locks system, but projects for the Fox River Navigational System Authority are just ramping up.

Artist concept for The Lox: Fox River Locks System visitor's center (image provided)

List on the National Register of Historic Place, the Fox Locks System is the only fully restored, hand-operated lock system in the country. Stretching nearly 40 miles on the Fox River, 9 of the 17 locks are operational.

And, as the Fox River Navigational System Authority looks to the future, it's starting with the past.

"We believe that this is the next logical step in making sure people have an opportunity and a place to come to learn more about our history," says CEO Jeremy Cords.

A fundraising campaign is just getting underway, as the navigational authority plans to build a visitor's center at Lock 3 in Appleton, on Lawe Street just off the Newberry Trail.

According to Cords, "It's going to be an interactive, interpetive center, focused on preserving the historical importance and the cultural heritage, while enhancing the future tourism of the area and the economic viability of it."

A little more than a million dollars of the $2.5 million project is already on hand. The navigational system authority is kicking in $750,000 while it's received an additional $300,000 in grant money from the Nelson Fund through the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley.

Local volunteers are already working on pieces for inside the museum, that is expected to draw more than just boaters to the locks, as it will help people understand the significance of the system and how it led to the exploration and development of the region more than 150 years ago.

"Once we get this visitors center up and running, it's going to be the shining star, quite frankly, not only for the Fox Locks but Northeast Wisconsin," adds Cords.

The hope is to break ground on the visitor's center either by the end of this year or in spring of 2020.