Rollin’ on da river (a good thing) and choppin’ down da trees (not so good)

April 15, 2012

Are you ready to Dig In® Chicago?

If you regularly log on to this website, you’ll have to forgive me for relentlessly plugging Dig In® Chicago. It’s not every day that I start a new television venture (when I get to that day, somebody please whup me upside the head with a rolled up newspaper to keep me humble). Co-host Jennifer Brennan, horticulture information specialist (and she really knows her stuff) and I are extremely excited to have our first episode air next week. For those of you unclear about our new gardening and cooking TV show, here’s the basic info.

  • Dig In Chicago premieres Saturday, April 21
  • It is a half hour local gardening and cooking show
  • You can find it on Comcast/Xfinity Channel 102
  • It airs weekly at 10:00 a.m. Saturday mornings
  • There will be 12 new episodes; each will be repeated once, for a total of 24 weeks
  • If you don’t have Comcast service, episodes will be available online at

I think that covers it. Tune in next Saturday and don’t forget to Like us on Facebook!

The Chicago River is on a roll…so roll on, reversed river!

It’s incredible to think that a mere twenty years ago the Chicago River was a lost cause. Its banks over-built or just neglected, a dumping ground for pollutants of all kinds, it was a body of water that you hoped you never fell into. It needed some friends.

It found them in Friends of the Chicago River. In 1992, 25 brave, dedicated souls signed on to drag old shopping carts, mattresses, plastic bags and much worse from its banks. They called it Chicago River Day, and the hill these concerned people were attempting to climb seemed insurmountable.

Fast forward 20 years, and the announcement from Illinois Governor Pat Quinn that Illinois will contribute $10 million to help make stretches of the Chicago River system safer for recreation. The state is chipping in to cover about half of the design costs for disinfecting the river. Right now,m Chicago is the only major U.S. city that skips the disinfection step when treating sewage. That was before Friends of the Chicago River and other river advocates began agitating to clean up the waterway that touches the lives of so many Chicagoans. It didn’t hurt when the Obama administration ordered state and local officials to comply with federal Clean Water Act standards that already apply to most other cities.

So now, twenty years since those first tentative steps to clean up this blighted and neglected civic resource, Friends of the Chicago River is celebrating with something they call Chicago River Day 20/20. From April 23 through May 12, there will be 20 days of activities on and beyond the banks of the Chicago River. They range from family-friendly scavenger hunts and animal action days to river tattoos, the Chicago River Summit, and even a river-edge pub crawl.

I’m please to have Margaret Frisbie, Executive Director of Friends of the Chicago River, back on the show this morning to whip us all into a frenzy of celebration. After we’ve had our coffee, of course.

The early warm spring takes a bit out of apples

I hate to say “I told you so” but…I told you so! Actually, both meteorologist Rick DiMaio and I warned folks a month ago that the record-breaking warm weather that we experienced in March might have a down side.

Welcome to the Freeze of April. Last week, an article in the Northwest Herald out of McHenry County chronicled a difficult couple of days for apple growers in the region. Some of the growers worried that they might lose their entire apple crop. All of this has come about as many plants–including fruit trees–blossomed as much a month early, setting up the potential for a disastrous cold snap that could destroy the blooms, meaning that the crop would fail, too.

Cathleen Harder from All Seasons Apple Orchard-Pumpkin Patch-Corn Maze, west of Woodstock, was one of the people quoted in the article and she joins Rick DiMaio and me this morning to talk about what we can expect from the apple crop and other fruits in Illinois in 2012.

Nightmare on 91st Street

Sometimes an act is so unbelievably vile and unnecessary that it takes your breath away.

Welcome to the wonderful world of retail development in America, specifically in the Chicago suburb or Evergreen Park. Just a few days ago, the axes and chain saws came out and about 300 old growth trees were felled in what was once the Evergreen Park municipal golf course. Why? So that a shopping center with a Meijer and a Menards and a few other smaller businesses could be built on that 50-acre site.

If, at this point, you’re asking “what’s wrong with that?” you already have a problem. I just said 300 old growth trees, some of which had been there for as long as anybody can remember, were just reduced to kindling. That part of the area is already more than congested. In addition, according to the Beverly Improvement Association:

The issue is simple, a couple blocks down the street is the failed Evergreen Plaza mall which is now scheduled for redevelopment. We say, we won’t shop, if you chop; build the development on nearby by vacant commercial land.

In addition, there is a former Webb Ford dealership nearby that sits idle. And they will continue to be blights on that neighborhood, while precious open space is defiled to sell cheap Chinese plastic goods…or whatever the hell they sell at Meijer and Menards. I really don’t give a tinker’s dam. I’m done with those companies.


We can get the word out and stop this unholy development. The Beverly Improvement Association has joined forces with Friends of the Forest Preserves to stop the development. The trees have been removed, but that doesn’t mean that the concrete must be poured.

FOTFP Executive Director Benjamin Cox stops by the new WCPT studios today to discuss this travesty. Meanwhile, here’s what you can do.

STEP 1. Call or write Meijer and Menards and tell them to move to nearby vacant retail space and that you won’t support their stores if they build on the golf course. If either the Meijer or Menards pulls out, the whole development stops.

Meijer Real Estate Department
2929 Walker Ave., NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49544-­9424
(877) 363-­4537
Email Meijer

Menards Real Estate Division – Dispositions
5101 Menard Drive
Eau Claire, WI 54703
(715) 876-­2532
Email Menards

Sign the petition

Celebrate Earth Month by seeing a film…about the Earth, of course

A grassroots group called Green Community Connections is hoping to make a splash with the first ever Earth Film Festival 2012 in the Oak Park and River Forest communities.

The One Earth Film Festival will take place Fri-Sun, April 27-29, 2012 at multiple concurrent venues in the Oak Park & River Forest IL area. The Green Carpet Gala that kicks off the fest is Friday, April 27th from 7:30-9:00pm, at the Oak Park Conservatory.  Tickets must be purchased in advance for the Green Carpet Gala.

This all comes at a reasonable cost. With a few exceptions, most films are FREE to the public with a suggested donation of only $5. However, because of limited seating registration is required.

Among the films that will be screened:

  • A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet
  • Angela’s Garden (Local Film Maker)
  • A Sense of Wonder (A Clip to be featured in Rachel Carson tribute program)
  • Dirt! The Movie
  • Food Patriots (Local film maker)
  • Fresh: New Thinking About What We’re Eating
  • Fuel
  • Greenwashers
  • Waste Land

and more.

Ana Garcia Doyle, who has had a large role in pulling the event together, stops by this morning to talk about what she hopes this first of a kind film festival will achieve.