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Category: Cleanup Corner

Cleanup Corner: Cleanup Dates


Wow, its only March, and already there are more than 20 cleanups on the calendar. Water TrailKeepers is happy to partner with other organizations, promote stewardship activities, recruit volunteers, and when we can provide additional support. Contact WTK Program manager Tom Eckels at program-manager@watertrailkeepers.org to add your event to the calendar.


  • April 3, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • April 30, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • May 14, Willow Creek Cleanup
  • May 15, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • June 4, Little Calumet River
  • June 11, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • July 9, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • July 23, Fox River in St Charles
  • July 31, Pecatonica River Cleanup
  • Aug 6, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • Aug 6, Fox River in Oswego
  • August, Date TBD, Kishwaukee River in Boon County
  • Sept 10, Rock River Sweep
  • Sept 10, Upper DesPlaines River between Cook and Lake County
  • Sept 10, Willow Creek Cleanup
  • Sept 17, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • Sept 17, Fox River in Algonquin ‘River Days’
  • Oct 8, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • Oct 29, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • Nov 12, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD
  • Dec 3, Upper DesPlaines River, Reach TBD

Paddle Green Earth Day Cleanup

Greetings and Happy New Year!

This spring the ACA is coordinating a Paddle Green Earth Day Cleanup weekend watershed cleanup. As an incentive for groups to host a cleanup, the ACA is offering a chance to win a weekend of free instruction in SUP, Canoe, or Kayak from an ACA Instructor Trainer. We are asking ACA State Directors to help us get the word out to the community so that together we can clean up our watersheds and raise awareness about water quality issues.

Who can host an event?

Any ACA member, PAC, of OLG may host a cleanup event and be registered to win a weekend of instruction for the group. Volunteers helping in the cleanup do not have to be ACA members.

Where should cleanups be held?

Cleanups can take place on any waterway, streams, rivers, bay, ocean, estuary, lake….. We encourage paddlers to remove marine debris from areas that are only accessible by boat for a part of the cleanup.

When should these cleanups be scheduled?

Paddle Green Earth Day Cleanups should be scheduled any of the following days: Friday April 22nd through Sunday April 24th, 2016.

What are the incentives for hosting a cleanup?

The ACA will provide two prizes as incentives to participating groups in the Paddle Green Earth Day Cleanup. The first prize will be given to the group that removes the most Marine Debris. The second prize will be drawn at random from the list of groups that report an eligible cleanup. Each incentive will be a weekend (two 6 hour days) of skills training to any group (not more than 10 persons in a training each day). Groups can choose courses from the canoe, coastal kayak, or SUP disciplines. Skills courses must be held in 2016. The ACA will provide the Instructor Trainer for the skills course(s). Course Participants must provide their own boats, gear, and transportation.

How can my group become eligible to win a weekend of skills training?

Groups can become eligible for the incentives by:

  • Register your cleanup online by visiting the website and submitting a completed registration form. Your cleanup will be posted to the ACA calendar.
  • Engaging a minimum of 10 volunteers in a waterway marine debris clean up on April 22nd, 23rd, or 24th, 2016.
  • Each volunteer must pick up at least 1 paddle Green Bag (or the equivalent) of Marine Debris from a waterway and dispose of it properly.
  • Each group must submit a completed cleanup report form to the ACA using either the online report form, or by submitting a paper report form by April 29th 2016.
  • Each group’s report must include a picture of the cleanup activities and a brief (250 words +/-) description of your cleanup project to be posted on the ACA webpage, showing your group’s stewardship work. (Due April 29, 2016)

When will groups know if they received the incentive?

Recipients will be selected at random at the ACA office on May 2, and will be notified by email by May 6, 2016.

We look forward to your participation in keeping our waterways clean and healthy!

Don’t forget the 5th Annual DesPlaines River cleanup! Sept 12, 9-1pm.

Don’t forget the 5th Annual DesPlaines River cleanup!  Sept 12, 9-1pm.


On Land in Lake County at Half Day Forest Preserve.

On Water in Lake County from RiverShire Park for experienced canoeists and kayakers with their own boat and gear.

On Land or Water in Cook County at Dam 1 Woods East;

Request More Information or to RSVP:

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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!


Clean-up Corner

We have 4 clean-ups coming up in the next couple of months. Hope to see everyone there:

4/25: Willow Creek in Elgin: Join the Isaac Walton League, Prairie State Canoeists, Water TrailKeepers, and others on a land-based cleanup of Willow Creek.

5/9: Chicago River Cleanup: Water TrailKeepers is partnering with OpenLands, Friends of the Chicago River, REI, Prairie State Canoeists, and others to help with the Annual Chicago River Cleanup day. Shore Walkers and Paddlers welcome to participate.

5/16: DuPage River Sweep: Water TrailKeepers volunteers will be working with the Conservation Foundation and Prairie State Canoeists in this annual event. Stop by and check it out!

6/6: This year is going to be Huge! Lots of people! Lots of Boats. Lots of Trash Removed. Join the Calumet Waterway Stewards, OpenLands, Water TrailKeepers, and many other partners in cleaning up the Little Calumet river!

All Water TrailKeepers cleanups can be found here.

2015 Cleanup Schedule

Every Year the dedicated volunteers of the Water TrailKeepers lead and participate in a plethora of cleanups.  We are also happy to publicize and support cleanups of other like-minded organizations.  Want to list your cleanup?  Contact thomasreckels@gmail.com, and we will be happy to oblige!  http://www.illinoispaddling.org/trailkeepers/cleanup-corner.

Here is an incomplete and tentative schedule of cleanups for 2015.  Updates made throughout the year at: http://www.illinoispaddling.org/trailkeepers/cleanup-corner.

March/April 3/22: WTK Volunteer Summit


4/25: Willow Creek

May 5/9: Chicago River


5/16: DuPage River Sweep Winfield, IL.

June 6/6  Little Calumet River


6/20:  Fox River in Algonquin


6/27: DuPage River in  Naperville, IL.

July 7/11: Lower DesPlaines between Cook and Will County


7/18:  Kishwaukee River in Boon County


7/25: Fox River in St. Charles, IL.

August 8/8: Lower Fox River Near Yorkville, IL

8/15: Alternative Date Lower DesPlaines between Cook and Will County

September 9/12: Willow Creek


9/12: Rock River Sweep


9/12: DesPlaines River Between Lake and Cook Counties


9/19  Fox River in Algonquin

October/November TBD : IPC annual dinner including WTK Volunteer of the year award
To Be Scheduled Sangamon River