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Community News

Artful rain barrels brighten local communities

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

This rain barrel setup was completed by a Green resident who attended the city’s workshop in 2012.
Bill Hoffman, of Hoffman’s Garden Center in Green, installed this rain barrel in the city last year to help attendees at the city of Green’s rain barrel workshop see how to use a rain barrel.
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 Akron students 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.

Akron, Norton and Mogadore 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.

Sarah Haring, community development administrator for the city of Green, said that community promoted the use of rain barrels last year and plans to undertake another project this summer.

She said the city held a rain barrel workshop last summer that was very well attended.

“We had to turn people away,” Haring said.

The city also received through a grant 30 to 40 food-grade barrels that workers in the Service Department are adapting to use as rain barrels.

The city’s Living Green Task Force is also planning to do some sort of project to again encourage rain barrel usage, and it might be an art project similar to the one the SSWCD is doing, Haring said.

“It’s nationwide,” she said. “We have done research, and quite a few communities across the nation do this with varying degrees. Some of the barrels become quite the work of art, and they are auctioned off to raise money for various programs.”

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

Haring said using a rain barrel is just one way that residents can help protect the environment.

“There a lot of people who are willing to do a little bit, and those little bits add up pretty quick,” she said.

For more information on the county program or on purchasing a rain barrel, contact the SSWCD at 330-929-2871 or www.summitswcd.org. For details on Green’s programs, call 330-896-6614 or go to www.cityofgreen.org/living -green.

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