Volunteers to hold Fox River cleanup Saturday: ‘We’re all connected by the river’

Everyone needs friends, even a river.

Members of Friends of the Fox River plan to lend their friend a hand Saturday as they hold more than 20 river cleanup and celebration events as part of “It’s Our Fox River Day” along 60 miles of the river from Yorkville north to McHenry.

Gary Swick, president of Friends of the Fox River, said the group hopes to build a connection between residents and the watershed that serves roughly 100 municipalities and provides drinking water to more than 300,000 people.

“It’s more than just picking up trash, which is still very important,” Swick said. “This event is about unifying people and understanding that we live in a watershed and that we’re all connected by the river and its tributaries.

“Once they see what a wonderful resource it is, then they get more interested in understanding their relationship with it, how they can positively impact it and how they negatively impact it with everyday habits,” he said.

The volunteer event, in its third year, will have five cleanup sites in Elgin, including one hosted by Friends of the Fox River and the Elgin Police Department at Walton Island. Friends of the Fox River will host another site near Clark Island in Batavia.

Other organizations will be hosting events in those towns and East Dundee, Geneva, Lake in the Hills, McHenry, Montgomery, South Elgin, St. Charles and Yorkville.

People interested in registering as volunteers can go to friendsofthefoxriver.org/fox-river-day-2021/.

Swick said people also are free to just show up at any of the sites, which are listed on the group’s Facebook page. The event goes from 9 a.m. until noon. Volunteers should bring their own drinking water, gloves and appropriate footwear.

Swick said there were a couple of hundred registered volunteers last year. Eventually, the hope is to spread the event until it reaches the entire watershed.

“I think we’ll be a lot closer next year,” he said.

Taking care of the watershed, which crosses state lines and goes through 11 counties, needs to be a regional effort, Swick said.

“We all live downstream of someone else,” he said. “So in order to protect and restore a watershed, you have to perform like you’re all together in the watershed.”

“That’s why we look at this as more than just a cleanup,” he said. “It’s a celebration of what a great resource we have, what a gift we have in this river that brings us all together and nourishes us every day.”