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S17 Episode 02: What Makes a River Healthy?

Jennifer Hammer, director of watershed programs and ecological restoration for The Conservation Foundation, explains regional efforts to improve water quality and habitat in the DuPage River, mentioning both success stories and challenges. 
This episode is part of Series 17: Protecting Our River
For a list of ParkTalk episodes and series visit  

Confluence of the East and West Branches of the DuPage River at Knoch Knolls Park

Quote from the episode: “Having a healthy riparian area is really important to having a good aquatic bug community. Those aquatic insects (like dragonflies) feed fish and a lot of them provide other services in the water, breaking down organic material and doing all kinds of interesting things under the water.” – Jennifer Hammer

Above: an educational sign explaining the earlier wetland restoration project at Pioneer Park along the West Branch DuPage River

How you can help improve water quality and habitat in the DuPage River:

1. Stormwater runoff is one of the biggest threats to the health of our rivers. Here are some ways that homeowners and businesses can help. More information can be found at

•    Infiltrate stormwater on your property wherever possible, which filters pollutants out of the water and lets water soak into the ground rather than pouring into storm drains. You can do this by:

o    Planting a rain garden around the down spout, with native plants that have deep roots.
o    Install a rain barrel to capture rainwater for later use.
o    Installing permeable pavers in the driveway or parking lot. The water can gradually soak into the ground in the spaces between the pavers, rather than running off into the street.

•    Keep storm drains free of debris like leaves and grass clippings.
•    Use as little fertilizer and herbicide as possible and follow the directions on the label.
•    Always pick up your pet’s waste and dispose of it properly, every time, and everywhere. 
•    When mowing, think about using a mulching mower and leave grass clippings on the lawn as a natural fertilizer.
•    You can use a mulching mower for fall leaves as well. Or rake them into your garden beds as mulch, using those nutrients right on your property.
•    Minimize the use of salt in winter.

2. Volunteer!  During the month of May, individuals can help clean up the DuPage River and be part of the annual DuPage River Sweep. Choose an area where you will pick up litter and then communicate your results. Sign up and learn more here.

3. Learn more about the local watershed groups:

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On Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011 Naperville Park District officials heard the good news for which they have been waiting for many months: the District has achieved national accreditation through the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA).

The decision was announced at the NRPA national conference in Atlanta following a formal hearing before the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA).

Naperville is only the second park district in Illinois to earn this distinction and the 104th nationally accredited agency in the nation; there are more than 10,000 recreation agencies in the United States. The Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies accredits a handful of park agencies each year that have completed a multi-step process involving a self-review by the agency, a site visit, and an evaluation and formal report by the Commission.

“We are extremely proud to bring this honor to Naperville,” said Park District Executive Director Ray McGury. “It’s an affirmation of our high standards and also an encouragement to continue bringing high quality recreation and parks experiences to our community.”

The Park District’s accreditation process began approximately one year ago and included an extensive self-evaluation by staff and a 5-day visit from CAPRA reviewers this past July. Maintaining the accreditation requires annual reports and 5- and 10-year reviews.

Park District staff members noted that the CAPRA process has helped them see the big picture, focus on long term goals and plans, review plans more regularly, organize documents so that they are accessible and useable, and collaborate more effectively with other departments and outside organizations.

Our Mission
We provide recreation and park experiences that promote healthy lives, healthy minds and a healthy community.
Our Vision
To be a national leader in parks and recreation providing and promoting high quality experiences and facilities at a great value to our community.
Core Values
Health and Wellness, Environmental Education, Stewardship and Sustainability, Community Enrichment, Public Safety, Accessibility, Personal Growth and Enrichment.
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