Early Saturday morning, hundreds of volunteers in Cook, DuPage and Kane counties joined this year’s cleanup event organized by the Illinois Prairie Path Corporation, a not-for-profit group that helps maintain the paths, but does not own them. In Proviso township, volunteers from Maywood, Bellwood and Hillside stepped up to clean the portion of the trails that span the multi-use nature trails – the Illinois Prairie Path and the Great Western Trails. 

Residents explaining the cleanup plan in Hillside, IL on April 29, 2023. | Sara Janz

“I think it was a marvelous success,” said Ralph DiFebo, site coordinator for the area spanning Berkeley and part of Hillside. “It was marvelous how much trash we got out.” 

A group of 15 people collected at least full 10 large garbage bags during the two-and-a-half hours they spent cleaning, said Andrea DiFebo. “Everyone had a great time picking up trash and cleaning our environment which we should do more often.” 

In Hillside, volunteers gathered at the Illinois Prairie Path section near Taft Avenue with plastic bags to remove trash from the pathways and surrounding areas. 

In Maywood, cleaning efforts started at 10 a.m. at the path section near 11th Street. 

In total, nearly 400 volunteers participated in Saturday’s events, which also took place in areas connected through the Prairie Path such as Lombard, Glen Ellyn, Wheaton, Aurora, Naperville and Warrenville. The Illinois Prairie Path spans 61 miles, while the Great Western Trail covers 17 miles. Both nature paths are used by neighbors and residents for walking, biking and spending time outdoors.

DiFebo is among a group of advocates for safe and equitable transportation who have pushed extending the Illinois Prairie Path in Maywood to connect it to the Salt Creek Trail in North Riverside and to the CTA Forest Park Blue Line. Last month, DiFebo joined Active Transportation Alliance in an open house to gather input on four proposals on how these trails could be connected, developed in participation with Civiltech Engineering and Cook County.