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Rockford Park District Raising Money for Accessible Fishing Pier

(RRStar, May 15, 2015, Kevin Haas)-The Rockford Park District officially kicked off fundraising today to build a new accessible fishing pier along the Rock River.


The pier will be named in honor of the late David F. Johnson, a longtime elected official and avid fisherman. It will be built along the river south of the Auburn Street bridge near the Symbol. It can be accessed from the recreation path, which has wheelchair parking nearby.


“This accessible pier would mean anglers with disabilities would have a safe spot to take part in the sport they love,” said John Beck, events and recreation projects manager for the Rockford Park District.


Beck, who uses a wheelchair, said there are limited opportunities for people with physical disabilities to find a safe spot to fish.


“The bank of the river slopes toward the water. It’s not comfortable for many people in a wheelchair to have to sit at a downward slope while they’re fishing,” he said. “Some people have had the experience of fishing on piers that don’t have railings on them and falling into the water.”


Members of the Rockford chapter of AMBUCS, a nonprofit organization that serves people with disabilities, approached the Park District to offer to help raise funds for the project. The cost is expected to be about $110,000. If at least $50,000 is raised, the CBW Foundation will provide a gift of $25,000. The Rockford Park District Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the district, is also helping to raise money for the project.


Commissioners decided in July 2011 to name the pier after Johnson, who spent more than 30 years in local elected offices including Rockford alderman, city clerk and Winnebago County Clerk. Johnson taught fishing classes at Rock Valley College for 17 years, was president of the Rock Valley Anglers, conducted seminars on the sport and had a weekly fishing segment on WTVO. Johnson died in March 2009 at age 65.


Johnson was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at the age of 14.


“Despite his health, his true passion was fishing, and he loved teaching others how to fish,” said Valerie Johnson, Dave’s wife. “This project honors his many years as a strong advocate for accessibility to buildings, for public transportation and sidewalk curb cuts.”


Fundraiser for fishing pier

What: “Babe Winkelman’s Tribute to Professor Bass, Davey Johnson”
Fisherman Babe Winkelman, TV host of “Good Fishing” and “Outdoor Secrets,” and First Rockford Group President Sunil Puri will host a fish fry and reception.


When: 6 to 8 p.m. June 14; a VIP reception will be at 5 p.m. for anyone who contributes $100 or more.


Where: Radisson Hotel & Conference Center, 200 S. Bell School Road, Rockford.


How much: $30 per ticket; $300 for a table of 8.
Where to buy: Blackhawk Bank locations at 2475 N. Perryville Road, Rockford; 3101 11th St., Rockford; 9609 Forest Hills Road, Machesney Park; 5206 Elevator Road, Roscoe; 2141 N. State St., Belvidere; Rockford Park District Foundation, 401 S. Main St., Rockford; Lynch Family Chiropractic, 3806 E. State St., Rockford.

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