Groups team up to clean Rock Cut State Park
Freeport, Ill. —
The Natural Land Institute and the Blackhawk Group of the Sierra Club have teamed up this fall to help maintain the beauty of Rock Cut State Park. On Oct. 30, more than 100 members of NLI, Sierra Club, the Stateline Paddlers Association, and the general public gathered along the shores of Pierce Lake to pick up the trash left behind by the one million visitors to the park each year.
The four-hour event was conceived as a way to help the staff of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which owns and manages Rock Cut State Park. The IDNR has had several million dollars cut from its budget over and is finding it harder and harder to maintain their properties to the highest degree.
“This event really illustrates the concern the public feels over their state parks,” says Stanley Campbell, Conservation Chair for the Sierra Club. “If so many people are willing to work in the cold and rain for hours on end, it shows that support for our parks is as strong as ever.”
Volunteers were divided into teams and assigned to a trail or a portion of the park. Armed with rubber gloves and plastic garbage bags, the volunteers spent the afternoon pulling aluminum cans, candy wrappers, and empty bottles out of the underbrush and stream banks. Several volunteers took to the water and gathered old plastic bags, rusty fish hooks, and other debris while paddling their kayaks around Pierce Lake. One daring group of students from Rock Valley College even wrestled an old tire out of the woods.
“I really enjoyed cleaning up the park with everyone,” says 17-year-old Ellie Laesch, who attended the event with the youth group at Emmanuel Lutheran Church of Rockford. “It was a good way to spend time with friends while supporting Rock Cut. I’m glad I could be a part of it.”
Kim Johnsen, the NLI’s Membership and Marketing Director, says the three organizations are planning another clean up day for next spring.
“We’re tentatively planning on early April,” says Johnsen. “We want to do it after the snow melts but before the leaves come out so we have maximum visibility.”
Since 1952, the Natural Land Institute has strived to create an enduring legacy of natural land in northern Illinois for people, plants, and animals through volunteerism and philanthropy.
The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest environmental organization in the United States. Its members seek to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth, to practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources, and to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment.
Jim Johannsen, member of the Northwest Illinois Green Team, works as Assistant to the Director at the Natural Land Institute in Rockford. He also serves as Publicity Chair for the Blackhawk Group of the Sierra Club and as Social Media Technician for the Four Rivers Environmental Coalition. He spends his spare time reading, gardening, and canoeing on the Kishwaukee River.
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