On April 22nd 2006, Champaign held its very first Boneyard Creek Community Day in hopes of changing the wellness of the community. Thirteen years later, about 500 to 700 volunteers are ready to rock their orange Boneyard shirts once again and clean up their environment.  On Saturday, April 7th this overwhelming amount of volunteers will be partaking in a morning of cleaning Boneyard Creek and several adjoining areas and later enjoy lunch alongside great music and educational displays at Scott Park in Champaign. Promoting general environment wellness and educational resources while encouraging the togetherness of a community, the Boneyard Creek clean up day strives to reclaim the beauty of the Earth and its natural settings. 

The locations are spread throughout Champaign, Urbana, and Savoy and have spread beyond the Boneyard Creek, now including several urban stream corridors, lakes in various parks, connecting corridors and general areas of the community in need of repair or cleaning. According to Champaign Park District’s Special Events manager Zoe Stinson and Chris Billing, Stinson’s co-chair for the Boneyard Creek Community Clean Up event, “The event grew from a presentation by Prairie Rivers Network to the Champaign Rotary Club in 2005. That club wished to create an activity to improve the conditions of the Boneyard Creek and foster community involvement as a part. Club members, such as Eric Robeson, and Prairie Rivers Network staff met with representatives of City of Urbana and Champaign public works staff, University of Illinois representatives and staff from both park districts to launch a community-wide effort.” The clean up event has deeply affected our community in terms of education and awareness. Stinson and Billing explain how the event has continued to stick with their original goals when developing the idea of the community day:

1) Clean up the creek 

2) Increase awareness of our urban stream corridors as an amenity and a community benefit

3) Form a core group of citizens interested in improving the Boneyard and promoting green development throughout the cities. Community members that participate and “get their hands dirty” will spread the message throughout the community that these values are important to all.

Boneyard Creek Community Day celebrates the environment and helps the general awareness of protecting areas around us, such as our lakes and streams. The event also promotes community togetherness through the inclusivity of the volunteers and sponsors. “The education and awareness components remain key to the event. We’ve added educational displays to our after-event luncheon provided at Scott Park for the volunteers. Displays addressing sustainability, water quality, naturalization, fish and wildlife along our stream corridors and recycling/reuse of resources are now an important component.”

Stinson and Billing remark that the greater majority of the volunteer groups are younger generations, adding that the participants include families with young children, groups of elementary/middle/high school students, students and student organizations from the University of Illinois and Parkland College, Boy and Girl Scouts and the Boys and Girls Club. There are a wonderful array of sponsors as well as volunteers, which perfectly displays a community working together in order to preserve our natural spaces. “We have many sponsors that provide funds to help us offset the costs of operating this event and also several that provide donations of food for our thank you luncheon for the volunteers. The communities of Champaign, Urbana and Savoy; the Champaign and Urbana Park Districts; the University of Illinois Facilities and Services and other groups provide staff, funds and resources that all contribute to this event. Without such a community-wide effort, this event would not take place,” says Stinson and Billing.

Volunteers can expect to partake in activities such as trash removal from the stream and banks, removal of litter and debris from areas that are direct tributaries to the streams, stenciling of manholes and inlets throughout town with “drains to creek” emblems, and removal of invasive species along the banks and corridor areas. The community clean up event has gotten up to 700 volunteers in the past years and is continuously growing.

In order to become a part of the event, registration is available through the website.

Photos from the Boneyard Creek website