Thursday, April 10, 2008

Champaign-Urbana's Boneyard Creek the Focus for Earth Day Celebration, City Plans

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Champaign-Urbana's Boneyard Creek the Focus for Earth Day Celebration, City Plans

How close are you to the nearest stream right now? I bet it’s not as far as you first think. That’s especially true when you consider that in central Illinois our waterways begin wherever rain falls and doesn’t soak into the soil. On the U of I campus and in much of Champaign and Urbana there are reminders of this fact attached to the storm drains, medallions that read “No Dumping – Drains to Creek.”

These medallions are also a visible reminder that there is a growing appreciation for the Boneyard Creek, a waterway that has been abused and overlooked in the past except when it drew attention to itself by flooding. The medallions have been installed by volunteers at past celebrations of Boneyard Creek Community Day, an annual event that you are invited to take part in Saturday, April 19th.

Volunteer activities for Boneyard Creek Community Day will take place at a number of sites on the creek, but begin with registration at 9:00 a.m. at Scott Park in Champaign. There, participants will be able to choose from a number of options. [Boneyard Creek Community Day co-chair Eric Robeson pitches in at the 2006 event. Photo by C. Eliana Brown.]Some groups will fan out from the park to pick up trash. Others will work with staff from the Urbana Park District and the Champaign County Forest Preserve District to naturalize the stream corridor by removing invasive, exotic species and replacing them with native plants. Volunteers will also continue the project of marking storm drains to remind people that whatever goes into them winds up in the creek.

Organizers for the event ask that volunteers wear closed-toed shoes (not sandals) and that they bring their own water bottles. Volunteers will receive free t-shirts, and, after the work is done, they are invited to stay at Scott Park for a free lunch, along with free entertainment thanks to Chad Dunn and Recycled Rhythms.

The Boneyard Creek Community Day can be seen as part of the greater appreciation being shown for the Boneyard Creek by the local community.

The U of I led the way in drawing attention to the creek with its makeover of the stretch that runs through the Engineering campus, completed in 2004. There, what was formerly a straight, concrete channel has been replaced by a more natural looking corridor, with a grassy slope that allows people to approach the edge of the stream from one side, and in-channel features that vary the depth and flow of the water. These features also make the creek more inviting to wildlife, and depending on the time of year you may encounter fish, bullfrogs and snapping turtles in the stream, along with the many different birds that are drawn to it.

The Cities of Champaign and Urbana also have plans to incorporate a more naturalized Boneyard Creek into public spaces. In Champaign, the City Council approved a plan last year to create a naturalized flood control basin between downtown and Scott Park. In Urbana, the just-completed Boneyard Creek Master Plan calls for transformation of the creek “from a highly urbanized drainage ditch into a place for people—a destination for the local community with spaces for leisure and enjoyment.”

From my perspective, there’s not much more you could ask for.


The public is invited to learn more about Urbana's Boneyard Creek Master Plan at an informational meeting in Urbana City Council chambers from 4:00 to 6:00 pm on Monday, April 14th."

More information about Boneyard Creek Community Day is available at, or by calling Prairie Rivers Network in Champaign at 344-2371.