September 23, 2009
By Melissa Conrad
UIS student Chris Young (left, in red) helps Sangamon Paddlers co-founder, Scott Hewitt (right, with hat), and another volunteer pick up large pieces of garbage from the muddy banks of the Sangamon River. Several UIS students participated in the clean up effort, organized in part by the Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center.
Photo by Melissa Conrad
Scott Hewitt, co-founder of local environmental group, The Sangamon Paddlers, is proud of what he calls his volunteer “river animals.” Hewitt and others from the Paddlers led a group of volunteers, including several UIS students, onto the Sangamon River to collect garbage.
The clean up effort was part of an observance for Illinois’ “It’s Our River Day,” which was observed statewide on Sept. 19. In honor of the day, The Sangamon Paddlers teamed up with the UIS Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center, The Sierra Club and several other environmentally focused groups to collect litter from the banks of the Sangamon River.
The section of river cleaned by the group flows through Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic, which has been subject to generations of unlawful garbage dumping.
The day had a turn out of about 55 volunteers, who combed the river and its banks for trash for about five hours. In that time, the team removed 6 tons of trash including 49 tires, three car batteries, two pet carriers, a bicycle, mattress springs and a door.
Scott Gauvin, The Sangamon Paddlers other co-founder, said, “recreation, conservation, and education” are the three main goals of the group, which formed last year.
Danny Rosenkranz, a UIS Environmental Studies graduate student, helped out with the annual clean up for the first time.
“This [event] is great, I wish it could get done more often,” he said. “I think students getting involved with the environment is a really positive thing. It’s a good learning experience and gets you really connected to the community.”
Hewitt shared his knowledge and experience with the river with the volunteers. Hewitt said that it is important to keep the river clean because, “The Sangamon provides drinking water, habitat for fish and animals, and is a recreational resource for the community.”
“The Sangamon Paddlers were formed not only to host club trips, but to tackle local environmental issues,” Hewitt said.
Sarah Leverentz, a UIS volunteer, encouraged other students to take a look at their environmental practices.
“[The experience] was very eye opening because I didn’t think people could be so inconsiderate with the water that they drink and the land that they live on,” she said. “This gives us a chance to see what happens when we don’t take care of our earth.”
“If you have to walk ten extra steps to a garbage can, do it, don’t throw your trash in the river,” Leverentz said.
Hewitt encouraged students to take part in local environmental events, including next spring’s “River Watch” program, where students will sample local streams to gauge their overall health.
To get involved with the Sangamon Paddlers, students can visit sangamonpaddlers.com, or contact Hewitt at (217) 632-2585.