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19. May 2017 · Comments Off on Holy Carp! · Categories: Articles


Beth Weiner





Beth Weiner 19 May, 2017.

Beth is a guest writer for Sustain DuPage from the Lil’ Green Warrior blog- check out her awesome work!

(496 words)

The morning is clear, warm, and bright, and the volunteers gather in the parking lot of Churchill Woods Forest Preserve. The chatter is light, bright, and joyful: wildflowers, the weather, and the day’s mission: trash pickup on a hike through the preserve.

It’s a leisurely stroll through the woods, peppered with facts about the area and wildlife from Andrew Van Gorp, Sustain DuPage’s fearless leader, president, and founder. Something about the quiet of the morning makes it feel previous, sacred almost. Some volunteers are more eager than others, one dives into the river to pluck out an abandoned tire. A few grab bottles from off the side of the trail.

The group comes to a riffle, a stretch of rock meant to improve the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water, along the East Branch of the DuPage River. The sun sparkles on its surface, and you would never know that this ecosystem is in trouble at first glance. Andrew stops the group, and excitedly explains, “If you look closely, you can see the carp spawning—it is the absolute most prehistoric thing you will ever see…imagine that these carp have been doing this for millions and millions of years…” and sure enough, there they are: at first glance, it just looks like a bunch of slashes near the surface. As you look closer, and approach the bank, you can see them: group after group of fish flopping around in a frenzy. These carp may be invasive, but they sure are magnificent.

The group’s focus is broken by Andrew again: “should I catch one?” The group stares at him, blinking. Andrew proceeds to roll up his pants and wade into the river, and one volunteer tentatively follows, barefoot but determined to follow along.

Andrew misses the first time. He plunges his hands into the icy water and the fish slips right through his fingers and his legs. The second time, a series of splashes and squeals ensues, and Andrew emerges, victorious, an enormous, mammoth carp in his hands, it’s belly sagging. She’s huge, she’s magnificent, and she definitely doesn’t belong on land.

Andrew is undeterred, even when the fish drops its eggs all over his leg. He eloquently describes to the group the reason the carp has dropped her eggs (in a last-ditch effort to reproduce), the difference between the way carp reproduce and the way humans reproduce, and the evolutionary purpose behind it. He describes that the fish outcompetes native fish for resources. He offers the fish to the volunteers to hold, and one agrees, hands trembling. There is something about that connection that takes their breath away.

This is what you will find when you volunteer at Churchill Woods, or in any way with Sustain DuPage. You will find the peace that only nature and the outdoors can bring. You will find connection with others and with the natural world that is so often robbed from us in our breakneck, helter-skelter society. You will learn, and you will be shocked and surprised, and you will walk away with a smile on your face, knowing you have made a difference.

Join us.

Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!

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