NIAA river cleanup

Chester Hebert, of Bradley, hauls away a bucketful of trash pulled from the river upstream from Aroma Park by Olivet Nazarene University students last September. The students and Hebert were among the scores of volunteers who assisted with the Northern Illinois Anglers Association’s Kankakee and Iroquois River Clean Up. The next cleanup is set for Sept. 15.

Hundreds of volunteers will be removing everything potentially from soda and beer bottles to tires and home appliances from the Kankakee River on Sept.15 during the 36th annual Kankakee and Iroquois River Clean Up.

Reported by Readers Digest years ago to being the oldest river cleanup in the Midwest, the cleanup has brought hundreds of volunteers out every year to collectively remove multiple tons of trash every year.

Last year was a low one, with an estimated 20 tons collected, said Ken Munjoy, president of the sponsoring Northern Illinois Anglers Association, but the cleanup has removed as much as 80 tons in one year, the late J.R. Black, longtime president of the NIAA, said in 2016, also estimating an average of 40 to 45 tons per year and a total of up to 1,530 through the first 34 years.

“We know it’s the oldest river cleanup in the Midwest, and Reader’s Digest wrote in the 1980s that it was the oldest in the U.S.,” Black said.

Last year also brought out a lower level of volunteers — at about 400 — but the collection still was stunning in its own way.

“We got enough stuff there to furnish an apartment,” NIAA vice president Bob Anderson, of Aroma Township, said at the time about the contents of a dumpster at Aroma Park. “Chairs, a TV and TV stand, a toilet, table, bathtub, artwork, a cabinet, plastic flowers. Didn’t see any lamps, but we got one of the older outdoor light fixtures.

“We didn’t get the usual tonnage here, but the river is low, and most of the stuff we brought in was stuck in the sand and visible through the water.”

Still, 29 car and truck tires pulled from the river were stacked between the dumpster and a battered and mud-covered jet ski that had been pulled out of the river by volunteers.

“They used a winch to get it out .... up in the Eagle Island area,” said 11-year volunteer Chester Hebert, of Bradley.

The cleanup will be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 15, with registration sites at Momence Island Park, Shamrock Golf Course, Aroma Park Boat Launch, Beckman Park Boat Launch, Bird Park Boat Launch, Bradley-Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club and the Kankakee River State Park concession stand building neat the suspension bridge.

Volunteers will receive a free commemorative patch and refreshments. Food and beverages will be served at all registration sites except Shamrock, where it will be beverage only.

For more information, call chairperson Brenda Nowak at 815-953-6134 or Reed’s Canoe Trips at 815-932-2563.

The cleanup has two new sponsors this year —Pepsi-Cola General Bottlers of Kankakee and Modern Woodmen of America. Returning sponsors are United Disposal, Aqua Illinois, radio stations WVLK, WIVR, WFAV and WYUR, the Daily Journal, Reed’s Canoe Trips, George and Nancy Witthoft, Republic Services of Momence, Kankakee River Rats and Blain’s Farm & Fleet.

NIAA also has an Adopt-a-River Program, in which organizations take responsibility for regular removal of debris from sections of the river — started in 2000 and also the oldest of its kind in Illinois.

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