Nelson Family Heritage Crossing

Nelson Family Heritage Crossing

The Nelson Family Heritage Crossing is a 1,131-foot bicycle and pedestrian bridge over the Fox River between Heesakker Park in Little Chute and a new rail trail connection to downtown Kaukauna. The project broke ground in August 2020, and opened to the public in June 2021. The Crossing serves as a gateway between the downtown districts in Little Chute and Kaukauna and has become a destination for residents of Little Chute, Kaukauna, and the surrounding areas. The span provides a critical, safe pedestrian crossing between high-volume multi-lane roadway bridges located 1.5 miles upstream and 1.5 miles downstream.

This project was arguably the most challenging and vital river crossing within the Loop the Locks system. It was necessary to complete this span to realize the trail system’s goal of achieving a full loop. Residents and visitors are able to use the crossing while walking, biking, running, birdwatching and fishing. Trails leading to the Crossing, as well as the bridge itself, are handicap accessible, and lit during dusk hours.

The project’s proximity to the nearby active locks system required careful coordination with Fox River Navigation System Authority’s (FRNSA) because of the lock’s historical significance, and with the U.S. Coast Guard pertaining to operation of the navigational channel in the Fox River. Trail neighbors were engaged early and it was important that everyone’s concerns were understood and incorporated into design decisions.

During design and construction, engineers were challenged by extremely shallow bedrock, soft and mucky soils, possible environmental contamination from area paper mills, and difficult access. Structurally, river hydraulics presented design challenges. The chosen bridge alignment beautifully integrates within the river views and takes advantage of the historical locks and natural river features. Bridge aesthetics, along with its location, were carefully selected to reflect the river’s industrial history. Weathered girders and cable-style railings offer unobstructed views and the lighting is purposefully subtle.

Finally, ease of maintenance is important to assuring a long-lasting and attractive community asset. This was accomplished by designing major bridge components like pilings, piers, and girders to be extremely strong, durable, and long lasting. The municipalities received more than $2.7 million in grants and private donations towards this $3.5 million project, with the remaining funding being split equally between Little Chute and Kaukauna.

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Project Data

$3.6 Million Project Cost


GRAEF Services

Site/Civil Engineering

Structural Engineering

Nelson Family Heritage Crossing

Pat Skalecki

Pat Skalecki, PE, CDT, LEED AP

Senior Civil Engineer