Newsmakers Making A Difference: Gary Mechanic, Friends of the Fox

Julie Mann
September 20, 2018 - 6:58 am

WBBM Newsradio/Julie Mann

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The Fox River flows more than 200 miles.  It starts at the Wisconsin border and flows to Lasalle County, through more than a dozen communities including Elgin and Aurora. 

It was the economic engine behind industry in the Fox Valley and the creation of the towns along its banks.  And while the power of the river provided business opportunities and jobs it also suffered from industrial waste and pollution.  That is until Congress took action, with the Clean Water Act in the 1970's, the first and most influential modern environmental law.  With the Clean Water act also came volunteers who pledged to fill in the gaps where the government lacked funding to monitor and stop polluters.   

For the Fox River, that group is Friends of the Fox River.       

Gary Mechanic is the Executive Director of Friends of the Fox.  He said they are a non-for-profit organization that keeps a watchful eye on the river's water quality, but also educates kids and adults on the importance of protecting and preserving the river. 

"Our over all strategy is to develop a watershed of caretakers, one kid at a time and one person at a time," Mechanic said.   

He said they work with schools, putting kids in their local streams to show them the ecosystem surrounding the river. 

"In many places you have to clear land and build a park to have open space for recreation for your population.  Here along the Fox River, the river itself if open space," Mechanic said. 

WBBM Newsradio/Julie Mann

Volunteers from Friends of the Fox River regularly host tours of the river and hold clean up days to look for pollutants and clean up the trash that ends up in the river. 

"It's not just a ditch full of water, it's really the living vein of the natural world that we live in," Mechanic said.

One way of measuring the improvements that have happened to the Fox River since the passage of the Clean Water Act is the increase in birds that flock to the waterway for food. 

WBBM Newsradio/Julie Mann

"Those birds are all fishing birds," Mechanic said. "They're here because there's more fish in the river and there's more fish in the river because we've cleaned up the river in the last 35 years."   

Friends of the Fox River, Newsmakers Making a Difference.  For volunteer opportunities or to learn more about the Friends of the Fox River go to

As WBBM celebrates its 50th anniversary as Newsradio, this year we’ll be honoring 50 Newsmakers making a difference in the community.  Listen for reports each Tuesday.

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