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Sierra Club volunteers clean up banks of Fox River

Aurora resident Fran Caffee loves to use the Fox River bike trails.

Every Monday, when the weather is nice, she’s out with a group that walks a stretch of the path north of New York Street on the east side of the river.

The problem is, they don’t always walk real far, because they stop to pick up garbage. She wants to keep the river area clean, because it’s a focal point of the community, and people love to use it.

“It’s our city,” she said. “It’s my town. I choose to live here.”

Caffee is a member of the Valley of the Fox Sierra Club. About 30 club members and other residents came out to help clean the banks along the same stretch of the river on Saturday morning.

“This area of the river just consistently needs help,” she said. “There’s always people down here.”

They have had Fox River cleanups every April for about 10 years, she said. They used to hit a different stretch of the river each April, but now they focus on this particular stretch because it needs it the most, she said.

Jessica Serrate and Catherine Clayton are among volunteers from the Phi Theta Kappa honors society at Waubonsee Community College.

They are out to clean up, but have also turned the event into a scavenger hunt of sorts. Last year, the two found underwear and a bicycle while helping with the cleanup.

“We have to see if we can top that,” Serrate said.

It’s important to help clean these areas up, Serrate said.

“You’ve got to take care of where you live.”

In the years that Caffee has been doing this, there is one thing that stands out as the oddest find along the banks of the river. One volunteer found a baby dead pig. Mostly it is liquor bottles, water bottles and plastic bags.

Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner stopped by to show his support for the cleanup. The river and the riverfront are a great community asset, he said.

“We haven’t always appreciated it,” he said.

With the River’s Edge Park and a new kayak and canoe rental shop coming to town, there needs to be a stronger focus on keeping this area of town clean, he said.

“We need to preserve, respect and nurture the use of our riverfront,” Weisner said.

Saturday’s focus was on the banks of the river, but Caffee is a member of the Water Sentinels, a division of the Sierra Club focused on clean water. They have been testing samples of water from the Fox since the ’90s, she said.

“It’s better than it was,” she said. “We’re making the public more aware of what they should and shouldn’t be doing.”

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