State of Illinois

Office of Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                       

Saturday, September 20, 2003

 

 

Letter-to-the-Editor
(856 words)

"JOIN ME AT THE ILLINOIS RIVER SWEEP; VOLUNTEER ONLINE TO HELP PROTECT ILLINOIS' MOST VALUABLE RESOURCE"

WWW.PATQUINN.ORG

Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that has." As a firm believer in the power of grassroots citizen action, I strongly urge all Illinois citizens to roll up their sleeves and join me for the Illinois River Sweep on Saturday, September 20, to help clean the lifeblood of our state's environment, the Illinois River and its watershed. I am happy to be participating in Lemont and I urge citizens to volunteer online by going to www.patquinn.org or calling the Friends of the Illinois River at (309)-547-2730.

As an annual volunteer effort to beautify the Illinois River and its watershed by picking up trash and litter, the Illinois River Sweep is organized by the Friends of the Illinois River-an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to conserving, enhancing and promoting the cultural and natural resources of the Illinois River and its watershed.

I believe broad citizen participation is needed at the Illinois River Sweep 2003 to protect this amazing resource that is so much a part of our heritage. Every volunteer that participates is provided with a free t-shirt, gloves and trash bag and many participating Illinois River Sweep communities will also provide breakfasts, cookouts following the event, incentive awards and even prize-giveaways for their volunteers-all donated by local businesses.

The Illinois waterways have long been instrumental in shaping the culture, commerce and communities of our state. About 90 percent of Illinois' population lives within the 55-county Illinois River Watershed and more than one million people rely on the Illinois River or its tributaries for their drinking water. The Illinois River is also enjoyed for boating, fishing, bird-watching and other recreational activities, and is an increasing source of tourism revenue.

The Illinois River also plays an integral part in sustaining the Illinois economy. More than 700 million bushels of corn are shipped to market annually on the Illinois River. Coal, iron, steel, chemicals and other farm products are also shipped on the river, which is cost-efficient and reduces highway traffic.

With so much of our economic bounty traveling through the Illinois River and being physically dependent on a clean Illinois River, it is essential that we support events such as the annual Illinois River Sweep. This single event helps to ensure that the people of Illinois can continue to use the Illinois River as a means of transportation without ruining the environment for our children, ourselves, and the countless fish, fowl and fauna which can be found in the Illinois River and its tributaries, including more than 3,100 bald eagles, the symbol of our nation's independence.

Last year, there were 1052 volunteers from twenty-one communities who participated in the Illinois River Sweep. The volunteers proved how effective a "small group of committed citizens" could be by cleaning more than 120 miles of river and filling 1,357 bags of trash by walking the shore or riding in boats to reach areas that were not accessible by foot. The volunteers also pulled in 166 tires.

Despite working hard all day to perform such an environmentally important task, volunteers easily manage to have a great time by getting to know other volunteers over coffee and doughnuts, taking in some fresh air and exercise and treasure hunting.

During last year's Illinois River Sweep, volunteers found many interesting and collectible items such as lawn chairs, fishing poles, grills, lawn tables, a 20 oz soda bottle with a plant growing inside it, an old iron scrollwork possibly from an old steam boat, a bed mattress, box springs, ovens, roasters, three TV's, a microwave, a dishwasher and a clothes dryer with a load of clothes still in it.

This year, participating towns include: Banner, Bartonville, Bath, Beardstown, Chillecothe, Creve Coeur, Eldred, Grafton, Hardin, Havana, Henry, Lacon, Lake Meredosia, Lemont, Liverpool, Macoupin Creek, Meredosia, Naples, Ottawa, Peoria, Peru, Versailles, and Woodford County.

As Lieutenant Governor, I am also Chairman of the Illinois River Coordinating Council, a unique multi-agency body that oversees programs and funding for watershed programs and a council that has been involved in the commitment and expenditure of almost $500 million to restore the Illinois River basin over the past four years. The IRCC is proud to support the Illinois River Sweep.

A Native American proverb once said, "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." The people of Illinois have a large task ahead of them, and I want to issue a "call-to-arms" to return the Illinois River back to the pristine condition it was in when we found it.

Let's become a model for all other states and show others that the spirit of volunteerism is alive and well in Illinois. Cleaning up the Illinois River is one of the most important things that we as Illinoisans can do please come out and join me for one fun-filled day that, with your participation, will leave a lasting mark on the environment of Illinois for years to come.

 

Sincerely,

                                   

 

Pat Quinn

Illinois Lieutenant Governor