Bags of trash filled with glass, plastics, cans taken out of the Illinois River by nearly 50 volunteers

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Close to 50 volunteers came out Saturday morning, helping clean up different sites around the Illinois River.

Coordinators said in order to comply with social distancing regulations, instead of meeting up at the Forest Park Nature Center, volunteers pre-registered, filled out waivers, and headed out to different Peoria Park District properties.

Volunteers, like Christy Ganson, lugged around numerous bags filled with plastic, glass, and cans that were flushed out of the river onto land. Ganson said many of the items they found can be hazardous to the environment.

“We have larger items, sometimes we’re pulling out things like tires that we bring back to a site,” Ganson said. “They’re not just [dangerous] to the environment right here but everyone else living downstream of us as well.”

She said her admiration for the river, and wanting to set a good example, continuously brings her back to brighten it up.

“I love the river, I like to paddle on the river, I like to hike along the river so I like to make it clean for other people to enjoy,” Ganson said.

She said enjoying the river comes with caring for it as well.

Kelsey Ernst, the naturalist with the Forest Park Nature Center, said the annual river sweep creates a domino effect that leads to a better way of living.

“Cleaner water means better air quality because when it evaporates it can take pollutants up into the air with it,” Ernst said. “It means better, you know, wildlife for those of us who like to hunt and fish. It’s better wildlife for those of us who like to view them.”

She also said the river sweep creates a better for the animals living in and around the river. Paula Kestner, said Saturday was her first time participating in the river sweep and she felt accomplished knowing she helped do her part.

“I like the idea of being able to help whether it’s for the animals or for the people,” Kestner said.

Ersnt said the event saw fewer volunteers this year due to the pandemic, however, volunteers said a little help goes a long way.

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COVID-19 IN CENTRAL ILLINOIS

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