Protect Your Local Stream – Participate in a River Clean-Up

PRN Memer, Eric Robeson, collecting trash at a Boneyard Clean-Up

PRN Member, Eric Robeson, collecting trash at the Boneyard Clean-Up in Champaign

Planning and hosting a local river clean-up is easy when it’s done in an organized, timely fashion. Remember that any clean-up is a successful clean-up: if your organization is small, start with a small stretch of the river or a tributary. It may also be easier to start by focusing on a stretch of the river that is in public land, such as a forest preserve or park district. This eliminates the need to get permission from private landowners and allows for possible co-coordination with the public entity. As the clean-up is publicized year after year, the resources and volunteers will grow, allowing you to expand the area.

Getting Started and Planning

The key to getting started is to plan as far in advance as possible. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you get started. For a complete list of tips and timelines for planning a river clean up you can download our Toolkit for Watershed Groups.

  1. Choose the date: advanced planning allows for the coordination of services, especially if facilities need to be rented. (9-12 months in advance if possible) Be sure to be aware of possible high water in the spring, low water in the middle of summer heat, and cold temperatures in the fall! Taking a look at historical weather patterns and water levels is very important!
  2. Meet with co-hosts: (other river groups, civic organization, park district, etc.) if applicable. Depending on how much you tackle, clean ups can be a lot of work so gather some friends or partners and delegate responsibilities or establish committees using the categories below.
  3. Choose the location and obtain permission: Remember to gain access the property from the appropriate landowners. (3-4 months in advance) If you are unsure where your efforts are needed, you can inventory the watershed to determine stream segments and property owners who need your help.
  4. Solicit monetary donations to support the costs of the clean-up if necessary. (3 months in advance)

Here are some committees that you will likely want to form:

  • Publicity and Volunteer Recruitment
  • Sites and Logistics
  • Necessary Gear
  • Soliciting Refreshments and Raffle Prizes
  • Safety

Remember for more details on organizing a River Clean-Up please download our Toolklit for Watershed Groups.