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$650,000 grant will help ‘Loop the Locks’

When the Village of Little Chute and City of Kaukauna proposed an 1,100-foot pedestrian and bicycle bridge connecting the two communities across the Fox River, even with money coming from Outagamie County and both municipalities, the $2.5 million project was going to require more than $1 million from grants and donations.

That challenge got a lot easier on May 1 when the Community Foundation announced a $650,000 grant for the Little Chute-Kaukauna Boardwalk as part of unveiling a $100 million estate gift from the late David and Rita Nelson of De Pere.

The gift established the David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund, a permanent, donor-advised endowment, which was the source of the $650,000 grant. The fund will award grants to charitable organizations reflecting the charitable interests of the couple and their family, primarily in the Fox Cities and the Green Bay area. That includes parks, recreation and waterways, a good fit for the boardwalk. David Nelson grew up in Kaukauna and his father, Lewis, was mayor 1937-40 and 1942-46. David’s youngest son, Richard, said one of his best memories of his father was riding bicycles on recreation trails.

Bob Jakel, Kaukauna Planning Director

Kaukauna City Planner Bob Jakel said the bridge will create an impressive linear park along the Fox River, connecting trail loops on both sides.

“It is a fantastic opportunity, not only for Kaukauna, but for everyone within the Fox Cities,” Jakel said. Area residents will be able to enjoy hiking, bicycling, fishing and nature viewing from the bridge.

“It is truly a gem in the county’s greenway system and will encourage economic development, provide for healthy living and help communities utilize parks that may, at one time, have been isolated and not connected via a trail network.”

Outagamie County Greenways Committee Chair Joy Hagen

Outagamie County has allocated $1.5 million from an electric transmission line compensation payment to support 25% of the cost of park and recreation trail projects in Appleton, Kimberly and the river crossing. The collection of six projects is being referred to as Loop the Locks, playing off of the Loop the Lake trail project around Little Lake Butte des Morts to the south and recognizing that it encompasses seven of the 17 historic, hand-operated navigational locks on the Fox. Jakel said it will allow for recreational trails linking downtown Green Bay with downtown Appleton.

Little Chute and Kaukauna also are seeking state Stewardship Fund money, applications that are strengthened by the Nelson Fund grant. Even with all of those sources, they also will have to get support from private donors. They will be working with a nonprofit to set up a way to make tax-deductible gifts to the project.

In all, the fund the Nelsons established awarded eight grants totaling $3.5 million. Additional grant money won’t be available until the summer of 2019. The $100 million-plus fund is expected to award $4.5 million in grants per year by 2021. That’s based on the Foundation’s endowment formula that up to 4.5% of a fund’s balance be distributed as grants each year to assure the fund’s giving capacity and permanence. The grants will be determined by the fund’s advisory committee working closely with the Community Foundation staff. There will be no application process.

Read more about the fund and see the full list of grants.

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