Earth Day event showcases year-round efforts to beautify Fox Lake

Celebration includes community cleanup, unveiling of historical marker

FOX LAKE – Efforts to both celebrate and clean up Fox Lake took center stage during an Earth Day event.

To volunteers throughout the village, however, those efforts entail more than a single day’s worth of activities.

Two groups – Promote Fox Lake and Fox Lake Shines – work year-round to beautify and show off the village, known as the “Heart of the Chain O’Lakes.”

“Fox Lake has such a rich history,” said Michael Lescher, who founded the nonprofit Promote Fox Lake ( in 2014, “and we don’t put it out there that much.”

He and others throughout the village are trying to change that as they strive to make a positive impact in the community.

Promote Fox Lake and Fox Lake Shines partnered to host the second annual Earth Day Everyday Community Cleanup on April 22. Along with a cleanup of the village, the event included children’s activities, a presentation about composting, recycling, live music and the unveiling of a historical marker.

The marker at Towne Centre Plaza stands in the place where Dollar Lake once stood. Filled in the 1960s, the lake became a parking lot and shopping area, Lescher said. Funded by both Promote Fox Lake and the village, the marker is the first of many planned, he said.

“I travel quite a bit and love to see historical markers and finding out about places I visit,” he said. “We really thought that was something we could bring to the village. We’re hoping to do several more in the coming years as well and celebrate the historical past.”

With 15 lakes and 45 miles of rivers, the village became a tourist attraction after the railroad entered the area in the early 1900s and remains a haven for water sports enthusiasts.

In the past, boats would pick up tourists from the train station and take them to the village’s resorts. The most recent historical marker touches on that history.

“This is the first of what we hope to be a half-dozen markers around the village,” said Joe Bongiovanni, who became president of Promote Fox Lake this year.

Like the dozen or so other volunteers in the group, he joined out of an appreciation of his hometown of 10 years. Along with community events such as the Earth Day celebration, Promote Fox Lake recruits volunteers for projects such as trash cleanup, weeding and community garden maintenance. The group also hosts a holiday light show.

“This is just part of me getting involved in my community where my roots are,” Bongiovanni said. “It just goes along with a passion of being of service.”

Fox Lake Shines formed in a similar way.

Founder Tanya Hill moved to the village in 2017 and decided in 2020 to start an anti-litter campaign.

“I would walk around and I was just inspired to pick up litter,” she said. “I just started talking to people and got support.”

Because of their similar causes, Fox Lake Shines and Promote Fox Lake soon began working together. Hill has the support of the village and others, including volunteer groups from Grant Community High School and Scouting troops.

Assigned locations, volunteers regularly go out and pick up litter. Some take on daily or weekly shifts. Hill lets the village’s street department know where filled garbage bags have been left behind and workers pick them up.

“In one hour, you’d be amazed at how much you can clean up,” she said. “It’s not like it’s a big amount of time I ask people to help out.”

Hill said it’s easy to make a positive impact in a village such as Fox Lake, where residents regularly come together to help. Their efforts not only benefit the environment and the appearance of the village, but they also help create a sense of pride and community spirit among residents, she said.

“My passion is just for loving on my community and finding like-minded people,” she said.