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Nelson Crossing creates new link between Little Chute and Kaukauna

The long-awaited Nelson Family Heritage Crossing is officially open!

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.

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. 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 p.m.

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

From downtown Kaukauna, users can follow a sidewalk from downtown Kaukauna to a paved trail along Third Street. A trailhead parking lot is available off Bicentennial Court.

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

A ribbon cutting marked the official opening of Nelson Crossing

The $3.5 million, 1,100-foot bicycle and pedestrian bridge between Heesakker Park in the Village of Little Chute and a new rail trail leading to downtown Kaukauna, combined village and state funding with gifts from businesses and individuals, helped by a $650,000 challenge grant from the Community Foundation’s David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund.

David Nelson grew up in Kaukauna and served as chief financial officer for the daily newspapers in Appleton and Green Bay and later owned radio stations. The couple left more than $100 million to their charitable fund after both died in 2017.

More than 50 people turned out to witness the dedication of what quickly became not just Kaukauna and Little Chute’s pedestrian bridge, but an asset for the quality of life for the whole Fox Valley community.

“The crossing will improve the quality of life for Little Chute and Kaukauna residents,” Kaukauna Mayor Tony Penterman said.

“This truly is a great day for the two communities and the people of the Fox Valley,” Little Chute Village Board President Mike Vanden Berg added.

Curt Detjen, Community Foundation President and CEO, said that following the estate gift of more than $100 million from the Nelsons, the Foundation was looking for the right project. With David Nelson having grown up in Kaukauna, the river crossing was “the opportunity for a signature project.”

The Nelson Family Heritage Crossing broke ground in August of 2020. The municipalities have received more than $2.7 million in grants and private donations for this project. Little Chute and Kaukauna split the remaining $800,000 split evenly between the Village and the City.

In addition to a grant from the David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund, this project was also supported by the Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, WI DNR, Outagamie County, Unison Credit Union, Fox Cities Greenways, Land & Water Conservation Fund, and many others.  

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