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Category: Cleanup Corner

June 4 on the Little Calumet River

Celebrate the Little Calumet River with recreation and environment activities and learn about the history and ecology of the Little Cal!

Clean up tools, breakfast snacks and lunch will be provided.

This year we will begin at Kickapoo Woods in Riverdale. Advanced paddlers and those with their own boats are asked to bring them. Those needing a loaner boat and inexperienced paddlers are also invited to attend. There is no charge for this event, but all participants must register in advance, indicating whether or not you are bringing their own boat during registration.

Tentative Schedule

River Clean Up.  9:00am – 12:30pm.  Two teams–one launching upstream, another downstream–for on-water clean up. Return to launch ramp in time for lunch.

Introduction to Canoeing. 9:00am instruction, 9:30-10:30am paddle; 11:00am instruction, 11:30-12:30pm paddle; 1:00pm instruction, 1:30-2:30pm paddle.

Introduction to Kayaking. 9:00am instruction, 9:30-10:30am paddle; 11:00am instruction, 11:30-12:30pm paddle; 1:00pm instruction, 1:30-2:30pm paddle.

Wrap up & Clean. 2:30pm

Sign up now by clicking Register!

Organizing a cleanup


Organizing a cleanup is easy!  All you need to do is grab some garbage bags, perhaps some cleanup tools, and your paddling friends, and pick up trash.  That’s all there is to it, so go forth and clean up our waters…Until you get to the spot you were going to drop the trash, and ‘Officer Friendly’ informs you that you can’t leave the tires there! So maybe it isn’t quite so easy.  Let’s start a dialog, on either on the IPC Web Site or on the Water TrailKeepers Facebook Page to discuss the logistics around organizing cleanups.


  • Setting the Cleanup Objective:  What do you want to accomplish?  Eliminate an illegal trash dump?  Pull Trash from the River?  Connect the community to a forgotten waterway?  What the goal will determine a lot of what will come next
  • Choosing Where and When.  As the organizer this is really your preference.  When are you available to do it.  Where do you want to do it?  However, you may find that some flexibility is in order.  Avoiding highly publicized dates like ‘earth day’, ‘it’s our river day’, ‘National Trails Day’, etc. may mean you get more volunteers because you won’t be competing with lots of other events.  Weather and on-water conditions may also impact the choice of when and where.
  • Fund Raising:  It always helps to have funds to supply cleanup tools/supplies, trash pickup, food for volunteers, etc.  In recent years, Water TrailKeepers has been fortunate to receive funding from REI Stewardship Grants, The ACA Club Fostered Stewardship Program,  the Illinois EPA, and other individual donors.  Funding is available, but it takes time and effort to obtain it.
  • Involving Local Authorities: If you can get the local authorities such as Forest Preserves, Conservation districts, park districts, etc. onboard, things go much more smoothly.  They may be able to help with disposal of trash, and provide other services.  They may even have volunteer programs to help you with recruiting volunteers and reaching out to the public.  Their responsiveness, or lack thereof may influence the decision on where and when.


  • Arranging for Trash Pickup:  If the local authorities are unable or unwilling to dispose of your trash, you will need to find alternatives.

Sometimes the local trash hauler will donate services to a community service project.  Sometimes they will offer discount rates.

Bridgestone has a program ‘tires 4ward’ to help dispose of trash-pickup-tires.


  • Recruiting Volunteers

Sources of volunteers:   Paddling Clubs, the community, church groups, youth groups, scouting….etc.

Involving the general public on-land walking the shores

Involving the general public on-water in boats

Thank, Feed, and Recognize volunteers

  • Partners and Sponsors:  Involving multiple organizations in the planning and execution of a cleanup increases the complexity, but can greatly increase effectiveness.
  • The media:.  The media can be a great ally publicizing the event. Media Outreach takes a lot of time, effort, and patience.
  • Event day logistics
  • Post cleanup follow up:  Get ready to do it again next year?

Report Dumping

By now everyone has probably seen the big California Oil Spill on the news. How about the two Illinois Oil Spills, one in Galina and one near Sidney in the Salt Fork of the Vermillion River? Read about them here:






While these are dramatic examples, it doesn’t take a train-wreck-sized spill to have an environmental impact. Even small events matter. So you are paddling your favorite body of water, and notice a chemical sheen. Besides being grossed out…what do you do? One paddler of the Fox River on Memorial Day weekend experienced just this. Jake, contacted the local authorities in Aurora who were extremely responsive. Eric, who has been involved with volunteer water quality monitoring projects, and also happens to be the City Engineer was able to trace the spill back to the source and clean it up!  The Illinois EPA was also notified to investigate the spill. Great Victory guys!


A few years back, also on the Fox, some paddlers discovered a fish-kill off. They contacted local authorities. Eventually the culprit was found, and justice served. Great Victory!


Last Month, Mike Taylor and Tom Eckels were paddling the Little Calumet River. We discovered a illegal disposal site of truck tires and automotive parts behind a trucking company, dumped in the river. A call was placed to the local authorities. It is yet to be seen as to what happens. Let’s hope for another great victory!

So you are paddling on your favorite waterway. You find a chemical spill or an illegal dump site. What do you do? First of all, do not come into direct contact with any potential contaminants. Let the professionals do their job. The safest thing to do is to report it. But to whom. A good place to start is your local village/town/city/county hall. The staff there could direct you to the local authorities who can take direct action. Additionally these types of incidents fall into the jurisdiction of the Illinois EPA. For a chemical spill or other emergency; For A non-emergency:

Another tool available is the Report a Water Trail Problem of the Water TrailKeepers. WTK volunteers are willing to assist as much as we can!

No responsiveness from the local government or Illinois EPA? Consider contacting your State and/or Federal Senator or Representative’s office. Putting a little political heat under the feet of those responsible is always an option.  Also find organizations such as the Illinois Water TrailKeepers, Prairie River Networks, American Rivers, River Alliance, Friends of groups, etc. etc. etc. to help address the issue. Many organizations have existing relationships with authorities, and can call on their relationships to help get things cleaned up!