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Artful rain barrels to brighten local communities

1/24/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Some Summit County communities will participate in a project to display artfully decorated rain barrels this year. Shown above is a rain barrel designed by students from King Elementary School in West Akron for a similar project with the Summit Soil and Water Conservation District.
Photo courtesy of Summit Soil and Water Conservation District
SUMMIT COUNTY — Water conservation can be a work of art.

That’s the idea the Summit Soil and Water Conservation District (SSWCD) hopes to get across in a new program in Akron-area communities that will display artfully painted rain barrels to promote their use.

Copley, Norton and Cuyahoga Falls are among the 10 communities that have agreed to take part in the program offered through the SSWCD, which received a grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources/Division of Soil and Water Resources.

Sandy Barbic, education specialist at the SSWCD, said similar programs have been done successfully in other Ohio counties, as well as at The University of Akron.

“The art makes them more palatable, something aesthetic that adds to the landscape,” she said.

The SSWCD will provide the barrels, and the communities will be responsible for finding an artist to paint them. The barrels then will be placed in high-visibility locations to help promote their usage, and the communities will conduct a silent auction for the barrels.

In Cuyahoga Falls, Public Utility Advocate Becky McCleary said artist Valerie Moirano has been chosen to paint the city’s rain barrel. It will be on display at City Hall during Earth Week, April 22-26, McCleary said.

“This is one avenue to help the public understand that our water resources are precious,” McCleary said.

During that week, the city will accept bids for the barrel. The following two weeks the barrel will be on display at the Cuyahoga Falls Library, where Moirano works.

In Copley, Service Director Mark Mitchell said the township is still finalizing details on its participation, but he hopes to have the barrel on display at a local home improvement center.

“It’s a great way to get the community involved and make them aware of rain barrels,” Mitchell said.

Interest in rain barrels is increasing, Barbic said, and she added she hopes that will continue with the program.

“We are encouraging people to use rain barrels because it saves water and slows the water down so there’s not so much runoff on properties,” she said. “We want to keep the rain where it falls, and it’s hard because of all the impervious surfaces. If you can at least slow it down and keep it and use it, it’s great for plants and great for gardeners.”

The SSWCD offers rain barrels for sale to local residents for $80. The heavy-duty plastic barrels hold 55 gallons of water, Barbic said. A linked barrel, which connects to the main barrel, is available for $50.

Installation is easy, she added, and diverter kits are available. The barrels are set up so a downspout empties into them.

Maintenance is not that difficult, Barbic added, noting that the barrels must be detached, drained and stored upside down over the winter.

For more information on the program or on purchasing a rain barrel, contact the SSWCD at 330-929-2871 or www.summitswcd.org.

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