Town Brook flows beneath a railroad bridge east of MacMurray College.

Town Brook flows beneath a railroad bridge east of MacMurray College.

Lori Large Oldenettel wrote an overview of the Town Brook project for The Source‘s Earth Day issue. Be sure to pick it up on newsstands this week, and be sure to come to the spring cleanup Saturday April 20th, starting at 8 am at the Diamond Expo Center in Jacksonville, Illinois 62650.

Have you ever wondered about our Town Brook? Did you know the Town Brook starts near Wal-Mart – travels along Morton Avenue – through MacMurray College – and continues around the City of Jacksonville to Sandusky Road and out by Passavant Area Hospital? Did you know the Town Brook is 3.1 miles from Walmart to Foreman’s Grove? Are you aware our colleges use the Town Brook for educational purposes?

Did you know there is a group of individuals working together to better utilize the Town Brook for recreational purposes – to keep it clean – to create more green space – and try to make it more functional for public use? I never knew there was so much to learn about the Town Brook until I really started looking at it and started having conversations with members of the community.

There are so many wonderful stories from families living along the Town Brook, and so many community members who have always hoped the Town Brook could become something more than just a meandering stream. This certainly is not the first time a group of citizens has come together to try and “spruce up” the brook, or try to make it more aesthetically appealing. Conversations have included everything from bicycle trails and walking trails, to outdoor restaurants, fountains, pedestrian bridges, butterfly gardens, beautiful grasses, learning centers, trees, playgrounds, community gardens, gazebos, and most recently, a space for a gambling boat! (I’m pretty sure the person who suggested the gambling boat was joking but nevertheless, it made the list.)

My passion for improving the Town Brook started with my dislike of all the trash lining the banks of the brook. Believing the brook could look much better, conversations were started with the city on what we could do to help improve the look of the brook, and to help improve the quality of life in Jacksonville, which is something adjacent property owners and neighborhoods could enjoy. Those conversations spurred on more conversations that eventually led to the development of a Special Studies Town Brook Improvement Project Committee.

This committee, along with assistance from the Citizens Town Brook Committee led by Steve Warmowski, held our first Fall Town Brook Clean Up last October. Nearly 100 volunteers participated. We filled a 20-yard dumpster in three hours. You can follow at or on Town Brook Facebook to see photos. The success of this event, and local media coverage, caught the eye of a Bloomington, Illinois engineering firm, the Farnsworth Group. The Jacksonville City Council approved $8,100 to complete the first two tasks of a four-task plan to help determine if a recreational path in Jacksonville is plausible. Task 3 and 4 come with a heavier price tag – around $50,000, and the Special Studies Town Brook Improvement Committee is strategizing ways to secure these funds to complete the Engineering Plan. Farnsworth will report their findings from Task 1 and Task 2 to the public on Monday, May 13th at 5:30 p.m. at the Municipal Building and the public is invited to attend.

The second Town Brook Clean Up has been planned to coincide with Earth Day. The Clean Up will be held on Saturday, April 20. Volunteers must be over the age of 18, and all participants are required to sign a waiver to participate. Volunteers will meet in the Diamond Expo Center (Former Midland’s) parking lot located at 803 South Diamond between 8:00 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. Volunteers will be divided into groups and given trash bags, and are encouraged to bring their own gloves, wear long pants, and wear sturdy hard soled shoes. This cleanup is sponsored in-part by a $500 Grant received from the Streambank Cleanup and Lakeshore Enhancement Program (SCALE), Ace Hardware, Buster Sanitation, County Market, Hembrough Tree and Lawn Care, Our Town Books, Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Auxiliary, Ryan and Cassandra Turner, and the Morgan County Underwater Search and Rescue Dive Team. The City of Jacksonville Parks and Lakes Department, Jacksonville Police Department and Jacksonville Street Department will also provide assistance.

We would like at least 100 volunteers to participate in the cleanup and feel we are on track to meet that goal. Volunteers have already been organized from MacMurray College, Illinois College, Jacksonville Kiwanis Club, Faith Lutheran Church and the Citizens Town Brook Committee. We can never have too many volunteers for this type of project, so the public is encouraged to participate.

Everyone can do their part to help keep the Town Brook and our community clean by picking up litter. I would encourage everyone to make a conscience effort to collect litter on their next walk, a visit to a park, or a stroll around your neighborhood. I think you would be surprised at how much litter is on the ground when you start picking it up. Start a conversation with kids about the hazards of litter and the importance of keeping planet Earth clean. The more litter we pick up, the less litter blows into the Town Brook or find its way into our storm water drainage systems. Picking up trash is easy and every member of our community can participate. Organize a neighborhood litter cleanup, adopt a park for monthly cleanups, adopt a street and keep it clean.

We can do a small part in keeping our communities looking clean and green! What will you be doing to help planet Earth this week?

Potential bike path, old railroad land north of Town Brook in Jacksonville, Illinois.

Potential bike path, old railroad land north of Town Brook in Jacksonville, Illinois.