Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Clean Streams
Nature Bulletin No. 538-A   October 5, 1974
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation

Each year in mid-May is Clean Streams Week in Cook County by proclamation of the president of the county board and the Board of Forest Preserve Commissioners, and in all of Illinois by proclamation of the Governor.

Its purpose is to focus the attention of everyone, young and old, upon the disgraceful conditions in our streams, formerly clean and beautiful, which have been made foul and unsightly by pollution with sewage and by the dumping of garbage and junk into them.

Some of us remember when fish such as northern pike, black bass, sunfish, bluegills, crappies and channel catfish were plentiful in the rivers and creeks of Cook County. Now the desirable kinds of fish have largely disappeared and many portions are so polluted that even carp cannot exist. Swimming, once popular in the DesPlaines River, Salt Creek and other streams, has long been prohibited by the State Board of Health. In some streams the stench and appearance of the water is so repulsive that no one enjoys picnicking or resting in the shade along their banks.

We people in Cook County are more fortunate than those of any other metropolitan area in the United States. We own more than 64,000 acres of forest preserves purchased for our recreation and pleasure. These holdings were chosen so that the major streams and many of the smaller ones flow through or along forest preserve property -- not only because much of the woodlands in this county are in these stream valleys, but also because water areas are necessary for many kinds of outdoor recreation. Needlessly and shamefully, some of the purposes of the forest preserves have been defeated and the recreational values of our streams have been destroyed by pouring sewage and industrial wastes into them, and by using their banks as dumping grounds.

The administrators and staff of the Forest Preserve District act as custodians and guardians of public property, including the water courses, but they must have public support and help -- your help. Accordingly, the Board of Forest Preserve Commissioners appointed a Clean Streams Committee to succeed one which had been appointed and active prior to World War II. It was instructed to search for every source of pollution, refer each one to the proper law enforcement agency and, with legal aid, endeavor to stop those abuses.

The present committee, which meets monthly at the Forest Preserve District headquarters, is composed of sixty public-spirited volunteers who serve without pay. They are divided into six watershed groups covering all of the streams and their tributaries in Cook County. They devote untold hours to traveling up and down our rivers and creeks. With the aid of sportsmen's organization and youth groups such as the Boy Scouts, they have mapped and reported the source of every instance of pollution. Many of those have been eliminated. Others will disappear after the construction of sewers and treatment plants now under contract or planned.

In spite of this progress, much more must be accomplished. Aided by new laws and ordinances enacted by the state, county and sanitary district governments, you can help. These streams are a part of your community and your life. Each one should be an asset, rather than an eyesore and a hazard to public health.

We will gladly tell you how you may help.

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