Inside, Out & About Features Inspiring Leaders and Ideas

Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River (center) with Jeff Skrentny (left) and Matt Renfree.

Our Inside, Out & About podcast series is expanding in its second year to feature people whose work inspires action and advocacy for the natural world; advancing ideas and strategies of how we can all work together to and improve and protect the river system for people, plants, and animals.

Listen to the Podcast

In our first podcast series launched in January last year, we explored locations along the Chicago and Calumet rivers including the Chicago Portage National Historic Site, Bubbly Creek, and beautiful river-edge forest preserves. Among the array of topics covered in the inaugural series were interviews with wildlife experts about river life including turtles, bats, and osprey. We also heard from notable guests such as Pulitzer Prize winning author Elizabeth Kolbert and environmental journalist Ben Goldfarb author of “Eager: The Surprising Secret Lives of Beavers and Why They Matter.”

The featured guests on the first episode of this year’s series are the recipients of our 2021 River Commitment Awards. These individuals are exceptional leaders on behalf of the river system who inspire others to get involved to improve and protect it.  

We hear from Matt Renfree, senior program specialist at the Chicago Park District, who discusses how his passion for the river led him to create the innovative River Lab to help kids and families learn about the ecology of the river system. Renfree was named Friends’ 2021 River Champion.

Jeff Skrentny, a stewardship leader at LaBagh Woods located on the Upper North Branch of the Chicago River, discusses how his volunteer team reinforced the importance and value of LaBagh Woods as a critical location for migrating birds. He enthusiastically describes how the team has worked for the last eight years to remove harmful invasive plant species and replace them with nearly 50 species of approved and locally grown native shrubs. Skrentny is the 2021 Spirit of the River recipient.

While not available for a full interview for this full episode, we hear Katherine Tellock, describe in an interview on WBEZ Radio how she was inspired by Chicago River Day to start Cleanup Club Chicago, a new organization of dedicated volunteers making Chicago cleaner and healthier by picking up litter in public places. Tellock is our 2021 Volunteer of the Year. 

Listen to the WBEZ Interview 

Stay tuned for more Inside, Out & About events and educational programing this year.