Scott Walker operates a lock mechanism at Appleton Lock 3 on Thursday.
Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill Thursday aimed at giving more public access to land around a series of locks along the Fox River in northeastern Wisconsin.
The new law authorizes the state to sell the parcel of land to the city of Appleton, which would then lease it to the Fox River Navigational Authority. The authority is to begin construction on a downtown Appleton visitors’ center beginning this year, with an opening date sometime in 2017. Preliminary construction estimates range between $1.7 million and $1.9 million.
The money for the project comes from a complicated mix of local, state, and federal sources. Private donations are also being solicited.
The Fox River locks were built in the 1800s to allow for commercial shipping. In the early 2000s the state gave federal money to the authority to restore the locks — a project that just recently wrapped up. Now, the economic impact of the locks will be tourism-related.
Walker said the locks “will be a great attraction — good for tourism, good for historical significance.”
Tim Rose, the chair of the Fox River Navigational Authority, said amenities along the river need to be built.
“We have to build some facilities on the river, because there are no restroom facilities from Menasha to De Pere,” he said.
One lock in Menasha remains closed due to concerns about the invasive round goby fish.