In Good Company- Frank Schier
Photograph by Nels Akerlund Photography + Video
ID Pennock Family YMCA
200 Y Blvd., Rockford
It's hard to discern which is closer to Frank Schier's heart - the role of a crusading journalist who loves ruffling feathers of local know-it-alls, or that of a conservationist who recognizes natural treasures and enlightens the public about them.
Schier has done plenty of both as editor and publisher of the Rock River Times, a weekly newspaper he started 26 years ago. With a free circulation of more than 20,000, Schier and his small but dedicated staff publish every Wednesday, carrying as much news about government, the arts, energy issues, people, music, crime, courts, sports and chicken dinner events as they can pack into the 52 tabloid pages they average. Included, too, are letters to the editor and investigative pieces Schier or his staff have done on such local issues as water pollution surrounding a former factory site, the goings-on in the administrative offices of a local college, or whether downtown is following the best path on its road back to life.
The name of that newspaper - Rock River Times - provides a big clue about Schier's other passion, the Rock River. Schier has canoed and driven along the river for more than 40 years. About 15 years ago, he started a campaign to share the beauty and enjoyment of the river with more people by organizing the Rock River Trail Initiative, an effort that has led to making the river a National Trail with campsites and signage all 320 miles from its headwaters near Fond du Lac, Wis., to its connection with the mighty Mississippi at the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa. It was a multi-year project for Schier, who enlisted and got support from officials from local to federal levels as well as conservationists, river enthusiasts, and business people who have interests along the river.
In 2011, the Sinnissippi Audubon Society named Schier Conservationist of the Year for his work on the river trail, and the countless stories he has published about many other environmental topics.
If you are a reader of the Rock River Times - you can find fresh copies around town each Wednesday - you know what Schier is all about. A fighter for the underdog, he is the man to see if the powers-that-be or other media decide your cause is not worth their attention. To Schier, that makes it an even better story.
(Written by Geri Nikolai)