March Madness for FOTFR

Friends of the Fox River kept busy during the month of March by participating in 3 community events. While each event had its respective uniqueness, all of them offered ways for people to connect with their river. The Thom McNamee Memorial St. Patrick’s Day parade offered community members the joy of celebration, while Friends of the Fox River’s 1st Dam Nite Out
and the 10th annual Fox River Summit offered a deep dive into understanding our river’s
progress and needs. 

Gary Swick bursts through the Carpentersville Dam on the Friends of the Fox River float
in the 2022 Thom McNamee Memorial Dundee St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Dam Nite Out #1 was a Big Success

dam nite out

On Thursday March 10th, over 60 people gathered at the Carpentersville Dam for the Friends of the Fox River’s (FOTFR) first Dam Nite Out. The event was designed to help locals understand the process of restoring the Fox River back to health. The Carpentersville Dam is scheduled to be removed this fall as part of that process.

dam nite on march 10th

Attendees were greeted by FOTFR President, Gary Swick who opened with the river’s history of glacial origin to the years of human abuse and added the role of FOTFR in giving the river a voice in its protection and restoration. That was followed by local historian Phil Aleo, who profiled the reason for the dam’s construction as providing mechanical power for local industries, which is no longer needed.  FOTFR Board member and local river restoration expert, Art Malm, explained why this removal is so important and what to expect.

art on dam nite
Engineer Art Malm details what the Fox River will be like after the dam removal.

The short presentation was followed by a period for questions and answers. That was cut short due to the pre-daylight savings time ensuing darkness and the chilling conditions of the sideways blowing flurries.

Most attendees traveled to a more in-depth presentation at Rosie O’Hare’s Public House upstairs private meeting room. All guests received a complimentary beverage and a very comprehensive coverage of the science of dam removal’s role in ecological restoration. An extensive question and answer followed.

Many who came that night were misinformed and skeptical about dam removal. FOTFR provided documented evidence that dam removals improve water quality, contribute to habitat and biodiversity restoration, and  provide increased safety to river users. The objective of informing the public on the facts, addressing fears, and generating excitement for a restored section of the Fox River was realized.

Dam Nite Out #2 is scheduled for Tuesday April 19th. The format will be similar. The dam site session will  begin at 5:30pm and be more in-depth and include exhibits. The session at Rosie O’Hare’s will provide the first 60 guests with a beverage and a specialty sandwich or salad for a suggested donation.  Join us for some important discussion as we move forward with our work to keep on fixin’ the Fox.

gary's shirt

Thinking Like a Watershed at the Fox River Summit

Friends of the Fox River board and staff members participated in this year’s Fox River Summit , an annual conference for discussion and collaboration around the water quality and community needs of the entire 200 mile length of the Fox River from it’s headwaters north of Waukesha, WI to its confluence with the Illinois River in Ottawa, IL.

Summit presenters represented agencies and industries ranging from family farms to government tourism and everything in between. One clear message was that protecting the Fox River is only accomplished when the entire Fox River Watershed is protected. Presenters from southeast Wisconsin reminded us about the vulnerable watershed resources that need more attention like the soil on farm fields and the thousands of wetland areas supporting waterfowl populations while providing ecosystem services like flood water retention.

Water quality experts presenting about freshwater mussels, nutrient pollution, and sedimentation all clearly demonstrated the multitude of threats that dams pose to water quality. In fact, the Army Corps of Engineers is completing a Fox River water quality assessment which will support  the removal of all of the dams on the Fox River to achieve the highest water quality standards. Funds will be available in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers for municipalities to partner in dam removal. 

Two watershed-wide initiatives that were previously born out of the Fox River Summit and are still going strong.  Kane County planner Karen Miller updated on the progress of the  Fabulous Fox River Water Trail which is on its way to becoming a designated national water trail. For readers in the southern portion of the watershed, the trail needs an access point between Lois landing and the Dayton dam to meet the criteria for national water trail designation. If you are or know a landowner along this stretch that may be willing to collaborate, please contact us at

gary at the summit
FOTFR president Gary Swick challenges the audience.

Our very own FOTFR President Gary Swick challenged the audience to make the 4th annual It’s Our Fox River Day  9/17/22 the largest watershed-wide celebration ever by signing up to host events in their respective river communities. We are on our way to reaching our goal of 100 events with 10 events planned already. How will YOU celebrate?

Opportunities to collaborate and calls for collective community action underscored all words spoken and figures and photos displayed. While keynote speaker John Jansen of Collier Geophysics demonstrated that the judicious use of road salting is critical for avoiding Chloride contamination of municipal wells. Wisconsin DNR Secretary Preston Cole was the cheerleader of the day, acknowledging the boots-on-the-ground efforts of all in the room (and their co-collaborators out in the watershed) with deep praise and gratitude.

In the notoriously underfunded, politically-dynamic field of environmental protection, hearing about the work of fellow watershed watchdogs is inspiring and validating. The passion these heroes possess is an invaluable commodity. Friends of the Fox River is fortunate for our many partners in the protection of the river we all love and the communities we call home.