DECATUR — Cleaning up the Sangamon River as it wends through Decatur is the focus of an event Saturday.
The Macon County Community Environmental Council and Decatur Park District are bringing together volunteers from 9 a.m. to noon at the Lincoln Park Pavilion on West Lincoln Park Drive, just north of the Sangamon.
"The river is an important part of our history," said Judy Parrish, a biology professor at Millikin University and chair of the council.
The Sangamon played an crucial role in the life Abraham Lincoln, whose first Illinois home was along the north bank of the waterway near what's now Harristown. The 162-acre site has been turned into the Lincoln Trail Homestead State Park.
Lincoln learned water navigation and later landed a job delivering supplies on a flatboat to New Orleans. He also developed a patent for devices that improve buoyancy. As a candidate for the General Assembly, he campaigned to improve navigability of the river.
Parrish has been involved in cleaning the river for more than 20 years.
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The 246-mile tributary of the Illinois River is rich with plant habitats. Flood plains used to be considered areas for dumping trash, and people were tossing items like washing machines into the river, she said.
"They weren't understood very well in the past, but they're a filter for the water before it gets to the river," she said. "The (flood plains) are a nursery for young animals and plants."
The council and Decatur Park District also have a river clean-up at Rock Springs Nature Center in coordination with the Macon County Conservation District each spring.
Participants on Saturday are encouraged to wear clothes that can get dirty and bring gloves. Bags will be provided.
Parrish said large groups should contact her ahead of time at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will send the groups to different areas so people don't cover the same ground.
David Davis Mansion
Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site
Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices
Lincoln Home National Historic Site
Mary Lincoln at Bellevue Place
Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site
The Lincoln Family Church
Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site
Lincoln Trail Homestead State Park
Postville Courthouse State Historic Site
Old State Capitol State Historic Site
The Lincoln Depot
Contact Kennedy Nolen at (217) 421-6985. Follow her on Twitter: @KNolenWrites