Remembering Ralph Frese

December 13, 2012

One of the most influential ‘elders’ in the open space preservation movement passed away December 10 at age 86.

Ralph Frese challenged anyone he met in the “open space” community to pay attention to the rivers of our region and the natural experience that you can gain only by being out, flowing with the water. “You leave no tracks, the river tells no one that you ever paddled on it” he was fond of saying. Ralph called himself a “blacksmith by profession, a canoe maker by possession.” When Openlands, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the Illinois Paddling Council organized the first regional water trail planning event in September of 1996 at Northeastern Illinois University, Ralph just chuckled and reminded us that these rivers were paddled for hundreds of years longer than any bicyclist or jogger ever used the growing open space network. But the rivers were fenced off and forgotten, “and it’s about time we get back to re-opening them again.” So we decided that Ralph should be a keynote speaker for his “poetry and passion.” He inspired his audience then, and ever since.

Ralph Freese 

Ralph often was accompanied by his wife Rita, paddling here on the Lower Fox River in 1995. 

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