Notes from a successful Rock River Sweep (finally!)

By Frank Schier
Editor & Publisher

After being postponed July 31 and Aug. 14 because of high water in Winnebago and Whiteside counties, the Rock River Sweep was finally a success last Saturday, Sept. 11.

Tom Lindblade, president of the Illinois Paddling Council, said he was happy to be doing something positive on 9/11 and said it might be a good idea to hold the event every year on that date. Lindblade spearheaded the efforts below the Fordam Dam, in conjunction with Prairie State Canoeists. A reporter could quote Lindblade all day long and still not do the justice to the event that he does in his fine YouTube video. He’s produced a number of videos, and this latest one on the Sweep is his finest yet. It’s a must see at

Lindblade and company gave hearty contributions to dumpsters at South Park, Blackhawk Park and the old Ace of Diamonds site. Good job!

Steve Lucas and John Nutall of Rock River Enterprises and Rock River Homeowners Association pulled in a huge pile of debris at Sportscore I, including an old dock that washed up near the Auburn Street bridge, a kiddie pool, and a pretty nice bike—obviously stolen and dumped in the Sportscore I lagoon. Lucas powerwashed the bike, and we will try to find the owners. Lucas worked Friday and Saturday on the Cleanup. Another excellent job.

Altogether in Winnebago County, nearly a semi load of debris was pulled from the river.

The following as notes, first, from the Rockton Friends of the Rock led by Loren Floto, and second, from Sterling’s A Group of Friends led by Terry Winchell. People like everyone listed above make life worth living, and should offer hope and pride to everyone about the potential of our human condition.

From Rockton

Hi everybody,

I wanted to give you a report on our river cleanup while it’s still fresh in my mind.

On Sept. 11, 2010, 11 volunteers got together at the gazebo in Settlers Park to clean up parts of our Rock River. Not counting many hours of planning, phoning, e-mailing and shopping by the coordinators, these 11 put in about 60 hours of volunteer labor.  We collected 38 bags of trash at roughly 20 pounds each for a total of 760 pounds. Of this amount, roughly 33 percent was recycled (glass, plastic, aluminum and steel cans). The other 67 percent was plastic packaging, styrofoam, or items too dirty or degraded to be recycled.

In addition to these bags, we gathered: three car tires, one semi tire, one truck rim, one tricycle wheel, eight steel fence posts, three camp chair frames, one ammeter dial, one badly rusted compressor on metal base, assorted steel items including a galvanized garbage can, part of a 55-gallon drum, and rusted sheet metal; aluminum pipe, carpet squares, plastic crate for Little Debbie products, men’s underwear and other clothing, and balls: golf, softball, baseball and football!

Including the bagged items, the total weight is estimated at over 1,500 pounds. Truly an interesting haul, and a bit distressing to know that some people think nothing of pitching these things into or near our river. We were able to cover only a limited part of our section. If we had five times the number of volunteers, we still would have been hard pressed to thoroughly clean up our section of the river. But we did what we could, and were happy with the results.

At lunchtime, with bluegrass music in the background, we drew names for door prizes, and shared pizza, soft drinks and snack bars. We had a picture-taking session and then went about delivering the collected refuse to the proper sites. Everyone seemed to enjoy the cleanup, and will probably participate again next year. Everybody bring a friend!

Thanks go out to our generous supporters: Rockton Lions Club, Walmart, Menards, Three Sheets Pub, Rockton Mobil,,, The Rock River Times, First National Bank and Trust, Rockton Inn, Acute Image and Design, Marilyn Mohring, Waste Management, and Rock Prairie Montessori School. Every one of them did their part to make this a success that we can build on for next year. Thanks again!

Many thanks to my co-coordinator, Tricia Davies for her invaluable help and suggestions.

Loren Floto

From Sterling

Hello Frank and Morgan [our new assistant at the paper],

Here are some pictures of the sweep we did on Saturday 9/11 for the Sterling section.

We had one group that filled a tandem Sterling Park District dump truck, but we didn’t get any pictures of it. We had two organizations that participated in addition to general volunteers. They were Ducks Unlimited, who worked out of Oppold Marina and Harvest Time Bible Church, who picked up litter at two Sterling parks. The general volunteers worked out of Moonlight Bay Marina. The filled-dumpster was from a 1-mile stretch of river by Moonlight Bay, which is a big collection area for debris. The river is at the lowest level I’ve ever seen, and it made for a muddy slog to the boats, but it gave us access to a lot of junk we wouldn’t normally have seen. We retrieved 26 tires in this 1-mile stretch and I thought we would only get five or so in this area. I think we got a lot of junk, but we were unable to cover much shoreline because we lost a lot of manpower due to schedule conflicts after two postponements. I am very proud of the effort of those volunteers who came out and feel that we made a positive impact on public awareness if nothing else. They had the dumpster at Moonlight Bay for the weekend, and there were many comments and disbelief on how much trash was in such a small area. Many people promised to help us out with the Sweep next year.


Terry Winchell

Thanks to all

Thanks to all from Frank Masterman, founder and head volunteer of the Rock River Sweep. As he says in his “Founder’s Corner” of, “As I ponder the results of our recent community riverbank clean-up, and as I near completing my reading of Chad Pregracke’s book From the Bottom Up, I am reassured that my vision for a cleaner Rock River ‘can and will’ become reality.”

From the Sept. 15-21, 2010 issue

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