On Saturday, April 23rd get ready to “pitch in and clean” at the 11th Annual Boneyard Creek Community Day. From 9am until Noon the community of Champaign-Urbana is cordially invited help keep the city and local waterways beautiful by volunteering in the clean up of Scott Park and six other remote sites. There will be lunch, music, educational displays, and the greatest of all motivators, food.
Boneyard Creek Community Day Co-Chairs, Betsy Liggett and Chris Billing, are very excited about this year’s event and the role they play in creating, what Liggett calls, “community stewardship.” Rather than have the tax dollars of CU’s citizens go to the clean up of Boneyard Creek, Billing says it is important to give people the opportunity to participate and become directly involved in the improvement of their environment. Boneyard Creek Community Day is the perfect venue to encourage community engagement. And based on the numbers over the past few years, the community of Champaign-Urbana is certainly taking note, and getting involved.
Although the number of clean up sites has been consistent and the miles of shoreline that gets cleared varies, the rest of Boneyard Creek Community Day’s stats continue to grow. In 2013, the event saw 330 volunteers and 845 acres of land become litter free. In 2014, those numbers increased to 400 and 1,459 respectively. Last year, 500 volunteers turned out to the event and 1,800 acres of land were litter and invasive species free at the end of the day.
What began in 2005 as much smaller event organized by six local organizations, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, City of Urbana, City of Champaign, Urbana Park District, Champaign Park District, and Champaign County Design and Conservation Foundation, Boneyard Creek Community Day has transformed into something much larger. Today, the annual event has 14 organizers and a growing list of sponsors. By all accounts, the event will continue to expand its reach and impact thanks to the giving and environmentally conscious culture of Champaign-Urbana.
Boneyard Creek Community Day is not just important because it creates a sense of community and activism, but because it is educational. At the seven clean up sites, volunteers can learn about and see first hand how our area’s waterways are connected, sometimes in unexpected ways. Liggett and Billing are often asked why North Prospect, near Wal-Mart and Target in Champaign, is on the list of clean up sites. But Liggett says if you just go and walk around the area you can see why. Plastic bags and other litter from shoppers and developments in the area cover the ground. That litter and refuse then gets washed into storm drains, which, if you have seen the insignias around town you know, lead to the Boneyard Creek. It goes to show that even if you are miles away from any visible water source, your actions, and the actions of others, can impact the cleanliness of an entire town. On April 23, that impact can be positive.
All ages are encouraged to participate in the day’s festivities. Individuals, families, and organizations can register for the event until 5pm on Wednesday, April 20. Registration ensures that there is enough (free) food for everyone at Scott Park following the cleanup, and that all the sites get an appropriate number of volunteers. Families are especially encouraged to attend the event so that area children can learn and begin to develop a sense of responsibility to the environment.
Educating local children about the environment is one of Liggett and Billing’s biggest goals for the future of Boneyard Creek Community Day. The co-chairs would love to see more involvement from the local school districts, especially the middle schools and high schools. Reaching children in such formative years is important for the future of our environment as it helps educate them and shape their interests. More volunteers would also give Liggett and Billing the opportunity to establish additional clean up sites, expanding the day’s reach one piece of litter removed at a time.
If you would like to help Boneyard Creek Community Day increase its numbers yet again, you can register to volunteer online. For more information about the event you can visit the event’s website or contact Betsy Liggett at [email protected] or Chris Billing at [email protected].
Photos courtesy of Boneyard Creek Community Day volunteer photographers.