GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It’s hard to miss Ashley Powers’ work.
“I’ve never done anything this big,” said Powers while referencing a design she’s spent the last week painting on a sidewalk near the Grand Rapids Public Library.
Using shades of green, blue, and purple, Powers illustrates a koi pond. Each stroke pulls together the picture and the reason for it.
“The design, I chose something like this, intentional with fish, because the storm drains do lead to the rivers, do lead to the fish, and the water affects those habitats,” said Powers.
Powers is one of 17 local artists working alongside the Grand Rapids Environmental Services Department this summer as part of an effort to educate people on the city’s storm drain system.
“If you look carefully at our catch basins, which you don’t do because you walk by every day, it says, ‘dump no waste, drains to waterway,’” said Carrie Rivett, Wastewater Stormwater Maintenance Superintendent. “This is just one more thing.”
According to Rivett, people often ignore the basins and don’t understand only water should go into them since whatever does go in ends up in the Grand River.
“The rain collects everything along the way, so if you don’t pick up your pet waste, that leads to e coli in the river,” said Rivett. “If you don’t pick up your litter, if you over fertilize your lawn when you don’t need it, all of that runs off and it can hurt the habitat in the river.”
Federal and state laws require the city to monitor what’s dumped, but Rivett says the community plays a role too.
“We love the water, we love Lake Michigan,” said Rivett. “Our water leads to Lake Michigan, our drinking water comes from Lake Michigan, so we need to protect our water here for what gets there.”
Rivett hopes the water themed designs scattered throughout the city forces people to address an issue she believes cannot be missed.
According to Rivett, private funding paid for the project. It’s expected to wrap up by mid-August.
“Pay attention that they’re there, pay attention that they go to the water,” said Rivett.