LITTLE CHUTE AND KAUKAUNA (NBC 26) — The Nelson Family Heritage Crossing officially opened to the public on Friday, June 18.
The crossing is a 1,100-foot bicycle and pedestrian bridge between Heesakker Park in Little Chute and a new rail trail connection to downtown Kaukauna.
It is one of if not the longest pedestrian bicycle bridge in the state, said Ryan Van Camp, project manager for Milwaukee-based GRAEF, the engineering firm that provided feasibility studies and designs for the bridge.
"We have a lot of decking... 6 miles of decking, 250 tons of steel beams that are holding this thing up and this has all been constructed in a six month time period and we've been planning this for 5 years," Van Camp said.
The Nelson Family Heritage Crossing broke ground in August 2020. Thanks in large part to community donors such as the David and Rita Nelson Family Fund, the $3.5 million bridge has become a reality. The municipalities received more than $2.7 million in grants and private donations towards this project, with the remaining funding being split equally between Little Chute and Kaukauna.
"For months, we've been getting great feedback and people coming up to us excited, waiting, anticipating this opening and (Friday) it all came and there's a lot of excitement a lot of people visiting, viewing, and talking and there's just been so much positive feedback from the community," Van Camp said.
The crossing serves as a gateway between the downtown districts in Little Chute and Kaukauna. Residents and visitors will be able to use the 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.
"The village and the city have given the residents more opportunity for recreation, for viewing nature, there's eagles in the area, eagle nests nearby, it's just a complete betterment of the community allowing for more of a recreational trail with bicycle access," Van Camp said.
From Little Chute, the bridge can be accessed via trail from Island or Heesakker parks. From Downtown Kaukauna, a sidewalk connection and paved trail along 3rd Street lead to the bridge. A trailhead parking lot is available off Bicentennial Court.