Jumping into the Chicago River with Patagonia
By Brette Bossick
Patagonia’s history of environmental ethics started in the early 1970s with a 25-year-old biology student named Mark Capelli who helped shoot down development plans on the Ventura River in Southern California in order to save wildlife and the local surf break. Where experts at a city council meeting argued that life in the Ventura River no longer existed, Mark broke their claim by presenting a slideshow of photos taken along the river to prove that wildlife did indeed live along the river, including birds, muskrats, water snakes, eels, and most notably: steelhead salmon. The river, which was once a major steelhead habitat, still hosted roughly 50 salmon. Ultimately the development plans were shut down.
This story hits close to home for the Naru Project. One of the co-founders, Josh Yellin, conducted research by implementing and monitoring a floating garden on the Chicago River. In his Master’s capstone, “Evaluating the Efficacy of an Artificial Fish Habitat in the Chicago River,” he proved fish populations increase due the presence of artificial floating islands. Josh’s research has driven the Naru Project’s core motivation: reconnecting communities to rivers by focusing on innovative rehabilitation and education.
Coming back to Mark Capelli’s efforts: He stopped the development plan along the Ventura River at the obvious signs of life and was given contributions from Patagonia to help clean the river. Mark succeeded in cleaning the water and increasing the river’s flow, expanding wildlife and the steelhead salmon populations.
Inspired by Mark, Patagonia now donates 1% of sales to grassroots groups committed to restoring habitats. The Naru Project is excited to have been awarded one of Patagonia's environmental grants this year. As the stories above align, we share their passion and commitment to helping to revitalize ecosystems.