The weather cooperated for a fantastic multi-faceted event. It’s Our Fox River Day (IOFRD) is a celebration of what the Fox River offers us every day in ecosystem and municipal services. Hundreds of folks joined in at over 50 different events to participate in their version of offering thanks to our Fox River.
Visit here to view the map and listings of the various events. It is an impressive collection geographically, encompassing a creative variety of celebrations and a long list of partners that made it a success. Thank you to all the partners and the public for their efforts in planning and implementing the largest watershed-wide event. This is literally going to take over 1000 thank you messages from Friends of the Fox River (FOTFR) to all that promoted, partnered, and participated in IOFRD 2023.
The intent of the celebration is to demonstrate and activate a unified approach to caring for our Fox River. Many challenges arise in managing a river system that crosses a state line, many county borders, and includes over 1 million residents in over 100 communities. This celebration is a way of building our relationship to the watershed and each other.
To participate, people crossed the state line, came from outside the watershed, traveled from Chicago, and Congressman Bill Foster came to St. Charles directly from Washington, D.C. The partner collaboration of Fox Valley Corridor Foundation, St. Charles Park District and Conservation Foundation involved 9 separate and simultaneous cleanups.
“I was proud to join the Friends of the Fox River for their annual clean-up day.”— Bill Foster, Congressman
Congressman Foster provided opening remarks at the St. Charles cleanup. “Keeping the Fox River clean is vital to preserving its natural beauty and its role as an economic driver and recreational destination for communities in the far suburbs. I’ll continue working in Congress to ensure Illinois receives the resources it needs to protect our rivers and streams for future generations to enjoy.”
Meet You Where You Are
Friends of the Fox River (FOTFR) strives to meet people where they are, in interest, ability, and situation. IOFRD does just that. The event was originally born as a cleanup, but has become a very diverse collection of events. The river cleanup hosted by FOTFR’s Jenni Kempf was held in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Their Park District and local rental also offered kayaking opportunities and 60 family members the opportunity to get in the water to collect organisms and analyze water quality. Hats off to Waukesha for combining work, play, and learning.
The Next Generation
This year, two high school seniors took lead roles. Lucy in Lake Geneva organized the Ride for Rubbish with Avant’s Pedal and Cup which included speakers and a scavenger hunt. Sravya from Barrington successfully worked with 10 Illinois municipalities from Spring Grove to Ottawa to adopt an official IOFRD resolution. Find the list here. The skill and leadership demonstrated by them is exciting for the Fox River’s future.
No Clean Water No Good Beer
The week kicked off with a beer release party at Riverlands Brewing in St. Charles. It had a “meet the FOTFR” focus, and the beginning of a FOTFR Watershed education fundraiser. $1 from every Acid Rainbow – FOTFR poured (until the vat is empty) will be donated. Sturdy Shelter in Batavia offered a discounted beverage to any IOFRD participants, and their fundraiser of Painted Turtle pours runs until October 2. “Meet the FOTFR” party is on September 28th there. Pollyanna in St. Charles also offered a drink special and donation on IOFRD.
Healing the Wounds
Litter cleanup has a direct impact upon restoring habitat and protecting wildlife and water quality. Several events were focused upon land healing through removing invasive species and planting natives. Green Guerilla and the Greater Kane County Wild Ones held a pop-up plant sale. Volunteers joined Dundee Township and a collaboration associated with the Flint Creek Alliance restoring two tributary areas.
Deep Thinking and Feeling
Some events took a spiritual approach. The Listening Stick in Elgin drew participants to hear and feel the environment around them. Discussion followed that included perspectives of Native Americans who routinely offered thanks to the Fox River and all of its components. Yoga focused upon flowing like a river occurred at several locations. In Geneva, at the conclusion of a well-attended annual clean-up, a Flower Blessing ceremony commenced. That was a unique pairing.
Public and Private, Big and Small
Some events like Port Barrington’s River Fest were large. Theirs was an 8-hour event with food, music, raffles, bag competition, and various other forms of education and entertainment.
The DuPage River Fly Tyers held their own club clean up. Several communities partnered with their municipality, service organizations (Lions, Rotary) and youth groups to put on large cleanups. In Dundee, mussel education was part of the annual pancake breakfast. Museums, libraries, and private businesses also participated.
FOTFR is very grateful for the support from all of our Friends, hosts, and participants. We are still receiving photos, participant lists, and stories from the many events. In the coming weeks be sure to check out the full IOFRD report that will be available on our website.
Until then, the “Free the Fox River” tab has taken its place and is a resource for information on the current plans for removing nine dams along the Fox River. In the spirit of IOFRD, please consider offering your support to the Fox River by becoming informed on the current recommendations for dam removal, educating your community, and submitting a public comment to the Army Corps of Engineers.