Aquarium Youth Volunteers Bring Storm Drain Art To Newport

March 29, 2010

Oregon Coast Aquarium youth volunteers partnered with the Surfrider Foundation to create a painting of a whale around a storm drain at the Nye Beach Turnaround in Newport. The “Storm Drain Art Project” intends to raise awareness about storm water and runoff pollution. Aquarium artist Michael Cole, known for his magnificent mural work at the Aquarium, painted the whale last Saturday. The youth volunteers have been coordinating the project with Cole and the Surfrider Foundation for the past six months, proposing the project to City Council and gathering materials. The City of Newport approved the first painting, and if the City approves of the next phase of the project, there will be more storm drain paintings in the area, intended to demonstrate that what goes into the storm drain goes into our oceans.

The youth volunteer team was first inspired to complete the art after learning about a similar project done by Surfrider Foundation with the Ocean Resource Team in Port Orford (2009). The youths wanted to educate the high number of visitors that enjoy the Nye Beach area and encourage them to make choices that have a positive impact on the environment. Recognizing that storm water pollution is a problem and everyone can be part of the solution, the youth team’s project aimed to deliver that message in a more meaningful way than a storm drain marker.

“What goes in our yards, streets and around drains ends up in the ocean and eventually negatively impacts us and marine life,” said Mechell Bailey, youth volunteer team member. “We thought this was a pretty cool way of demonstrating that connection.”

Throughout the winter, the youth volunteers researched city codes, regulations, possible sites around town, worked with local artist Michael Cole, wrote a project proposal and presented their idea to the Newport City Council in February. With a unanimous motion from the Newport City Council, the city staff enthusiastically supported preparing the site for the painting.

This year marks the third year that the youth volunteers and Surfrider Foundation have joined forces on youth volunteer water quality team projects. Working under the guidance of the Aquarium’s Youth Program Coordinator, Tricia Ratliff, and Surfrider’s Oregon Field Manager, Charlie Plybon, the youth volunteers help develop projects to raise awareness of the Blue Water Task Force Program. This citizen-based water quality monitoring program has been a partnership between the two organizations over the past seven years, giving volunteers hands-on experience sampling and testing water quality of local beaches. The past three years, the groups have worked jointly with a youth volunteer water quality team each winter, connecting the water quality program to a youth awareness project within the community.

“The youth volunteer team projects are an opportunity to develop leadership, project development, planning, and communication skills,” said Tricia Ratliff, Aquarium youth program coordinator. “More than anything, the youths learn that community projects take careful planning, multiple strategies, and follow through. They begin a project from conception and follow it through to completion and later present their projects to the general public.”

“My hope is that this project will help educate and make people aware of their actions, as well as be the start of many storm drain art projects,” Said Olivia Poncé, youth volunteer team member.