Several of Rohnert Park’s storm drains will be sporting a whole new look this year thanks to a project being funded by the Rohnert Park Small Grants Foundation. The environmentally-themed art project is being facilitated by Envirichment, an organization that creates and organizes hands-on environmental education events, activities and stewardship projects. The project will transpire through a collaboration with local community groups, students, and Public Works, and aims to draw attention to the connection between our streets and creek health. Hand-painted fish labels, along with text saying “Ours to Protect” and where the specific inlet drains to, will inspire residents to help prevent pollution from entering the drains which flow into the nearest creek and watershed.
“The idea of this project, which has already been implemented at a handful of drains in Santa Rosa, is that the storm drain is the creek,” says Stephanie Lennox, Owner of Envirichment. “That really helps people understand. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. When you see the inlet and these gorgeous fish heading into the waterway, you think ‘Oh, I get it!’”
Envirichment will collaborate with Artstart, a non-profit educational arts organization, which will provide the art studio, the materials, and the art instruction with professional artists. Youth in the community will create the actual art. Besides the opportunity of working with and learning from professional artists, students will also learn about ecology, water quality and creek health.
“We will be working with youth in the community,” says Lennox. “Some possibilities are the local high schools, or Boys and Girls Clubs. It really depends on who responds to the invitation to participate.”
Any interested young aspiring artists are encouraged to contact Envirichment at 707-206-5147.
The $5,000 grant will allow five to eight storm drains within the City of Rohnert Park to be painted, and the first step for Lennox will be to coordinate with Public Works to determine the best locations. Ideally, the storm drains chosen will be in high traffic, visible areas that also experience a lot of foot traffic where more trash tends to congregate. Residents are encouraged to give their opinion about what storm drains tend to collect a lot of garbage.
The need to educate citizens on the potential creek pollution caused by garbage and toxic chemicals flowing down storm drains is critical to ensure healthy creeks, wildlife habitats, and oceans which our creeks eventually run into.
“The reason why our creeks are so hard hit is because we have these hard surfaces [in our cities] that drain very quickly and efficiently through these storm drains,” says Lennox. “We end up with this direct delivery system from our streets to our creeks. I’ve been doing this kind of work for twenty years and what I’ve realized is that spending quality time with your storm drain is what gets someone to fully understand that. In our lives, most of the time, our drains take stuff away and that’s the last time with think about it. We think our inside drain is very much like our outside drain but it’s not. A big piece of my education is making sure people understand that.”
Lennox plans to work on the coordination throughout the spring, and hopes to have the art installed on the storm drains by the end of the spring school semester.