© 2024 WVIK
Listen at 90.3 FM and 98.3 FM in the Quad Cities, 95.9 FM in Dubuque, or on the WVIK app!
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Chad Pregracke

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

In 1995, twenty-year-old Chad Pregracke decided it was time to carry out his big idea: he was going to clean up the Mississippi River of all the debris, garbage, and trash discarded over the years by thoughtless individuals, and make it a beautiful river once again.

Chad had grown up along the Mississippi in Hampton, Illinois, and he had come to love the river. He was hurt by the sight of all that trash. He knew he couldn't possibly clean the entire Mississippi; his dream was to clean just the 1,200 miles of shoreline between Gutenberg, Iowa, and St. Louis, Missouri.

Chad though he would find immediate support from all those industries, cities, and government agencies along the river who had begun to trumpet their concern for the environment, but he was turned down by every single one. Poor crazy child, they clucked, to attempt a task not even Hercules would dare to undertake.

Rejection only fueled his determination. He began to clean up the river all by himself, with a small johnboat and a trailer. Floating alongshore, he filled his boat with litter, transferred the trash to the trailer, and repeated the process until the trailer was full. Then, he headed to a salvage yard to recycle as much as possible. All summer long Chad filled his trailer over and over with trash—barrels, tires, Styrofoam chunks, furniture—some fifteen tons the first two years.

The crazy child might still be digging into his own savings to support his river cleanup had he not come up with an impressive title for the dream: The Mississippi River Restoration and Beautification Project.

His project was now official, not just a junior high study hall daydream. $8,500 arrived from Alcoa Aluminum Corporation, for starters, and additional money from other groups. A dumpster from the Corps of Engineers. A blessing from the Environmental Protection Agency. Reporters began following his efforts. Appearances on network television, awards. Help from individuals and groups.

What's in a name? The Wizard of Oz knew, and now, so does Chad Pregracke.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by the Scott County Regional Authority, with additional funding from the Illinois Arts Council and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.