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Neighbors of DuPage

Tons of garbage cleaned from the DuPage River

Jul 02, 2015 09:59AM ● By Neighbors Magazines

Susan Allman loaded up her kayak with debris she found on the West Branch of the DuPage River. She kept the rusty horseshoe for luck (Photo by Sandy Kaczmarski).

A suitcase, car bumper, a pool noodle, a rusty bicycle, a 6-foot section of a picket fence, and even a family portrait are just some of the 6.6 tons of garbage more than 600 volunteers pulled out of the waterways in the county during this year’s DuPage River Sweep in May. The Conservation Foundation organizes this annual event with the help of the DuPage County Stormwater Management Department, Waste Management, and a grant from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. More than 10,000 volunteers have cleaned up nearly 245 tons of garbage from DuPage County streams since 1991.

“This year we had fewer volunteers, but they actually covered 36 more miles of river than last year,” Jan Roehll, DuPage County Program Director, said. “Three volunteers found money — $5, $10, and $20 bills. Who says volunteering doesn’t pay off?” Roehll said one of the volunteers used his $20 find at the Cubs game later that day. Cubs won.

A group of kayakers scoured the West Branch of the DuPage River despite the morning’s rain. Groups included neighbors and families who helped “sweep” an area nearly 100 miles long. This event is a way for citizens to improve the waterways in their neighborhoods by picking up debris and litter from a section of a stream or pond. Sponsoring organizations provide supplies, technical support, snacks, water, and trash pokers for volunteers to complete their work.

This group found all this junk in the West Branch of the DuPage River during this year’s DuPage River Sweep. (Photo by Sandy Kaczmarski)

 Picking up garbage isn’t the only way that volunteers can help. Restoration is needed in natural areas near the waterways. This year, teams helped remove buckthorn, honeysuckle, and garlic mustard from more than two acres. Since adding restoration opportunities in 2009, more than 16 acres of land near waterways have been stewarded by volunteers removing invasive species.

The Conservation Foundation is one of the regions largest and oldest private conservation organizations, with more than 4,000 members and donors, and more than 500 volunteers who contribute 20,000 hours per year. Work is focused in DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will Counties to preserve and restore nature in your neighborhood.