The soggy, smelly garbage floated in but never floated out.
If all goes as planned Saturday, the dozens of old tires and piles of trash will be hauled out of the woods at Campbell's Island.
"There was 4 feet of water in here last June," said Dick Southwick, a resident of the flood-prone island in East Moline. "Some of the floodwater never left. It carried the junk in, but there's no current to carry it out."
So Southwick started talking to his neighbors about a cleanup. And they listened.
"Everybody who heard about it was supportive and enthusiastic," he said of efforts to involve his neighbors in a Living Lands & Waters-sponsored XStream Cleanup. "About 20 neighbors got involved with the planning."
But few got more involved than Southwick, who has been helping plan Saturday's cleanup at Campbell's Island for about a year.
"He's always willing to do whatever it takes - one of those guys you wish you had 100 of," said Madeline Luloff, officer manager for Living Lands & Waters and personal assistant to founder Chad Pregracke. "Chad's out of the area and out of the state a lot, and we know Dick is always available and ready to help when we need something."
It doesn't hurt that he lives just a few miles from the organization's headquarters along Route 84.
Originally from Moline, Southwick spent almost 20 years living in rural Lynn Center, Ill., before moving to the Mississippi riverfront two years ago. He already was a volunteer/supporter of Living Lands (he donates artwork he makes for the organization's Barge Party fundraisers), but he became more involved when he realized how much help his own backyard needed.
"The thing about Chad and the whole group is that they see a problem and fix it," he said. "That appealed to me."
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It appealed to many of his neighbors, too.
While Southwick welded a large boiler, another island resident donated sweet corn to serve to volunteers after Saturday's cleanup. If the neighbors hadn't carefully cleared a path through the woods, cleanup crews wouldn't have stood a chance of navigating the dense trees and soggy terrain.
In his Living Lands T-shirt and rubber boots, Southwick gave a golf-cart tour Friday of the cleanup site. He took a day off from his job at John Deere to see to the delivery of giant garbage cans and portable toilets at the cleanup staging area near his home.
"The tires hold onto water, and they become a great breeding ground for mosquitoes," he said, pointing to an especially large pile of tires in one area of the woods. "We'll get this junk out of here, but we already know we'll need to come back next year.
"I'm looking forward to it. One thing I learned from volunteering with this group is that people always have fun."