Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Another Friend

The Salt Fork River just got another friend: Carle Foundation Hospital. Carle Foundation hospital and Carle RxExpress are opening free medical-waste disposal sites that will be open all year. This is a new program called "Healthy People, Happy Planet," which provides safe disposal practices for expired and unwanted medications and used needles. Previously, the only local year-round option available was to dispose of these items in the trash and, in the case of medications, many ended up being flushed into the sewage system. Well, no more. Starting August 29th there will be drop boxes for medication disposals at RxExpress locations.

There is such a vast amount of trash, both seen and unseen, that ends up in the Salt Fork River. Kudos to Carle for this new service which facilitates decisions by each of us that can provide cleaner water in east central Illinois.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

August Observations

Friday, August 7th, 2009

From private land upstream of 2500E to 2700E (county line road)

One of my daughter’s first requests after being abroad in Kazakhstan for almost a year was to take a trip down the Salt Fork. We put in at a friend’s place in our kayaks to enjoy a leisurely float with our old friend, the river. I found it interesting that this would be one of her first requests. My husband was raised on a farm along the Salt Fork and our kids grew up here, too. As the transplant from the suburbs of Chicago who fished with my Dad on vacations and took excursions to the Boundary Waters and Quetico, it was easy for me to fall in love with this river 30 years ago when I married and called this place my home, too. And now that our children are grown they are drawn back to the Salt Fork when they come home. Since our kids were toddlers we took them along on trips down the Salt Fork. Sometimes my husband would fish, sometimes the kids would try to catch bugs in their dip nets, and as they got older their friends would come along and they would play in the river as much as float along in the boat. Eventually they took the waters on their own.

As Rachel and I paddled along on Friday, she reminisced about when she and her best friend dumped their trash-laden canoe during one of the fall river clean-ups almost ten years ago. As a parent, you sometimes wonder if you are doing the right things for your kids and it isn’t until they are grown that you can begin to see some of the fruits of your labors. I know for certain that one thing we did do right was to expose our kids to the beauty and enjoyment of the Salt Fork River. We were able to instill in them a sense of natural beauty, sensitivity to environmental issues and responding in positive ways, the idea that neighborhoods are not just around city blocks, trash in the river (and everywhere) is ugly, enjoying the outdoors is not just a summer sport, and the idea that everybody lives downstream.

With that said, here are a few comments from our recent trip. One of our first observations was to notice cut logs in a pile of woody debris before coming to the bridge at 2500E. It appears that someone has taken the time to go down to the river with a chainsaw to cut the fallen trees into 6-8 foot sections in an effort to prevent a build-up of woody material along their property. Logjams, as they are sometimes called, are a controversial issue along the Salt Fork with drainage, recreation, habitat, and erosion being some of the topics that get debated. In this particular instance, the landowner or whoever cut the logs used a good method, using low-impact access and tools to reduce the size of the trees so they would likely be carried away in the next flood. I am encouraged by the practice and hope to see more of this type of channel maintenance in the future.

We found graffiti on the 2500E bridge piling, native hibiscus (Hibiscus palustris) in bloom at the outlet of the Homer Lake spillway runoff, and caterpillars dangling from silken threads over the middle of the channel. But mostly, we just found a peaceful place to enjoy the day. And what better way to come back to the USA than to chill in a kayak and ponder life. In our busy world we desperately need places to find a little solitude and rest and the Salt Fork River is one of them. I am so grateful it is nearby and that my kids have found enjoyment there, too.

Posted by Suzanne Smith