Next time you walk by a storm drain in Vail, take a second look | VailDaily.com

Next time you walk by a storm drain in Vail, take a second look

There's local art promoting the environmental health of Gore Creek.

This moose painting by Alee Germiller shows the animal in its natural habitat.
Special to the Daily

If you’re in and around the Vail Village and Lionshead this summer, you may have seen some art next to a few of the storm drains.

The town of Vail’s environmental team started a campaign last year to install art near 15 prominently seen storm drains in town. The public art project, which is in its third year, features original depictions of creek-dependent life by Colorado artists. The project, part of the Restore the Gore initiative, aims to educate the public about its efforts to bring the Gore Creek up to environmental standards.

Since 2012, Gore Creek has failed to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for aquatic life. With its status as an “impaired waterway” in the state of Colorado, the town of Vail completed a study in 2015 to determine the major causes preventing aquatic life from thriving. Two main causes were loss of habitat and increased runoff into the creek thanks to infrastructure developments like paving. But perhaps the biggest problem, and the one the storm drains art project is trying to educate visitors and locals about, is untreated storm water pollution.

In 2016, there were many incidents where people dumped various harmful substances into the river via storm drains, including full gallons of paint, cooking grease, carpet cleaner, drywall dust, cement and hot dogs.

“People don’t realize that storm drains flow directly into the creek untreated. So we realized we needed to get the message out,” Peter Wadden, Vail’s watershed education coordinator, said. “I really sincerely believe that there is no one, or practically no one, who would dump those things directly into the creek. I think there must be a disconnect there. People didn’t understand that those are pretty much the same thing.”

This painting by Austin Kucera depicts a black bear using pallate knife techniques.
Special to the Daily

As part of the town of Vail’s Restore the Gore initiative, the storm drains art project is just one of several ways the town is working to correct damage done to the creek. Heavy duty vinyl decals featuring the art and messaging in both English and Spanish about the storm drains were installed just before GoPro Games, one of the biggest events of the summer, and will remain on display until Octoberfest.

“We hear a lot of people who are excited to see the art and are curious to know who the artists, so that exposure for local amateur/semi-professional artists is cool as well. I’ve had folks who are visiting call me up and say, ‘hey, I want to recreate this in my hometown.’” Wadden said. “Mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery and we’re happy to have other people doing it and spreading the message around the country.”