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Illinois hunting and fishing

Volunteers remove a picnic table from the Sangamon River during a previous cleanup. Photo by Chris Young.

Two events scheduled to cleanup Sangamon River and celebrate its ties to Lincoln

August 23, 2012 at 08:22 AM

The State Journal-Register

Two events in September will care for and celebrate the history of the Sangamon River.

Annual river cleanup

The Friends of the Sangamon Valley’s annual Sangamon River Cleanup will be held Sept. 15, covering a stretch from Irwin Bridge (northwest of Springfield) to New Salem.

Even though crews scour this stretch of the river each September, there is always more work to do.

Scott Hewitt of New Salem Canoe Rental in Petersburg and a Friends volunteer said dozens of tires were dumped recently.

“We’re going to need a lot of volunteers for this one,” he said.

Vern LaGesse, executive director of the Friends, said cleanup will be needed until people change the ways they dispose of waste.         

“Someone dumped 75 tires off Irwin Bridge, and it happened over the course of an evening,” LaGesse said. “Someone had them and didn’t want to pay the $2-per-tire fee to dispose of them.”

The Friends will cover the cost of Dumpsters.

“It’s trying to change the society,” LaGesse said. “You are always going to have to (hold cleanups) until people quit dumping.”

Not all dumped items can be handled by volunteers in canoes or by those walking on shore.

Larger, heavier items are more difficult and expensive to remove.

Friends’ board member George Sinclair has begun a project to photograph large items in the Sangamon River.

LaGesse said the plan is to eventually develop a Web page with the pictures.

“People could then ‘sponsor’ the removal of that piece of trash,” LaGesse said.

‘Paddle-Axe Challenge’

The Inaugural Sangamon River Lincoln Heritage Water Trail Classic — also known as the “Abe’s Paddle-Axe Challenge” — will be held starting at 9 a.m. Sept. 29.

The 10-mile race will start just upstream of Irwin Bridge and end at Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site near Petersburg.

The event includes five divisions from racing canoes and kayaks to a five-mile recreational-only division.

Recreational boaters will start at Gudgel Bridge at 10 a.m.

A Rendezvous Boat division is open to wooden boats “historical in nature.”

Lincoln piloted a flatboat down the Sangamon River in 1831 when he was 22 years old, eventually becoming stuck on the milldam at New Salem.

His ingenuity in solving the problem caught the attention of the town’s residents, and he was offered a job upon his return.

The Lincoln Heritage Water Trail on the Lower Sangamon River was dedicated in 1965. It commemorates the role the river played in Lincoln’s early life.

Food and entertainment will follow the race at the Riverbank Lodge in Petersburg.

Chris Young can be reached at 788-1528.

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