With 92 volunteers on shore and 27 kayakers on the water, the third annual clean-up of the Des Plaines River in northwest Illinois was deemed a success. The Illinois Water Trail Keepers removed tons of trash – including plastic bags, bottles, cans, buckets, tires, lawn chairs, bicycles, pipes and piles of metal of unknown origin – from an eight-mile stretch of the 31-mile river in Lake County in mid-September.
About 50 tires, large tractor tires among them, were retrieved, suggesting that they were dumped in the river to avoid disposal fees. Also found was a safe, an expired credit card and a shrink wrapped bundle of new checks. Authorities called in determined the checks were linked to a robbery that occurred two years ago.
Clean-up crew members came upon an injured red-tailed hawk suspected of ingesting a poisoned rodent. It was taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center.
Despite the 1,020 volunteer hours spent cleaning up the river, much work remains. The crew did not have the equipment to remove motorcycle, oil tanks, a 20-foot pipe or a huge tarp tangled in some trees.
The clean-up was conducted by the Illinois Water Trail Keepers, a volunteer stewardship program of the Illinois Paddling Council and Openlands, in collaboration with the Upper Des Plaines River Ecosystem Partnership, the Forest Preserve Districts of Cook and Lake counties with support and donations from local communities and businesses.
The next Des Plaines River clean-up is set for September 13.
Street named pioneer paddler
In other Des Plaines River paddling news, the City of Chicago recently honored Ralph Frese by naming after him the street next to the business and Chicagoland Canoe Base he occupied for decades. He died in December 2012 at the age of 86.
Frese was a blacksmith, canoe builder, conservationist, teacher, and above all, a friend of rivers. He founded the Illinois Paddling Council in the 1950s and started the Des Plaines Marathon, now in its 57th year, to draw attention to the natural resources that exist even in very urban areas. Frese was particularly interested in the history of the French Canadians who designed and built the famous voyageur canoes.