Silverthorne adds storm drain murals to educate community about impact on Blue River

A storm drain mural painted by Kia Neill is pictured Thursday, July 22, in Silverthorne.
Photo by Lindsey Toomer /

While there are hundreds of storm drains around Summit County, five of Silverthorne’s drains now stand out from the rest.

The town worked with five local artists to create storm drain murals to educate the community about the importance of keeping pollutants and debris out of storm drains to protect the Blue River.

Joanne Cook, Silverthorne recreation and culture director, said the project combines two things important to the town: supporting local artists and ensuring the Blue River remains healthy.

“(We’re) trying to educate our community about the importance of healthy storm drain water and the health of the Blue River while we’re also doing something fun and interactive with local artists that makes our town more colorful and gives people something to talk about,” Cook said.

The five murals were all created during the last week of June using street paint, so Cook expects them to last a few years, though that could vary depending on wear and tear in each area.

Kendra Fuller, executive director of the Blue River Watershed Group, said Summit County is somewhat unique in that what goes through its storm drains isn’t treated before making its way to the river. She said many urban areas typically treat storm drain water before releasing it to a river, making this an important educational opportunity for visitors to the mountains.

“If there’s anything dumped down the drain, or leaves blown into those, then it does build up and head out right into the river,” Fuller said. “By drawing our eyes and our attention to those storm drains, we can bring awareness around them.”

Fuller said the project is important because it combines art, science and education. For example, she said folks should avoid washing cars with hoses in their driveways as this water then goes into the river.

At a glance

The artists and the locations of their murals are:

• Kia Neill: southeast corner of Fourth Street and Rainbow Drive, near the community garden

• Nicholas Faessen: northeast corner of Fourth Street and Rainbow Drive, near the Silverthorne Recreation Center sign

• Erika Donaghy: southeast corner of Fourth Street and Adams Avenue, near the transfer center

• Samantha Robertson: entrance to Silverthorne Performing Arts Center at the roundabout

• Jessica Marie Johnson: southeast corner of Fourth Street and Colorado Highway 9, near the coffee shop

“We are a river-centric community, and especially in Silverthorne, everybody walks the river,” Fuller said. “If you can make it fun or exciting or beautiful to learn a new fact, then I think people will absorb it and remember it and feel the impact more than if it’s just an educational flyer or an announcement.

“This is really hitting on people’s hearts as well as their minds.”

Cook said the project started when the town was talking about improving infrastructure around its storm drains. She said officials knew of other towns that had done similar projects and thought it could make for a good opportunity to engage with local artists.

“We knew we would find people to come to the table and help beautify some of these drains to just call attention to how important it is,” Cook said.

Cook said artists were chosen by the art selection committee, a subgroup of the town’s arts board. This group is responsible for making recommendations about permanent and temporary art installations in town.

The town paid for all the paint, and the artists also received a stipend from the arts board’s public art installations general fund.

For Dillon-based artist Erika Donaghy, the project was an opportunity to combine two of her professional passions. Donaghy previously served as executive director of the Blue River Watershed Group, so keeping the river healthy is important to her. She also serves on the First Friday committee, another subgroup of the arts board.

“I like to be involved as much as I can with all of their art projects, and I think they’re doing a really great job of trying to support local artists and bring in more art to the community,” Donaghy said.

She said this project was an opportunity for her to step outside of her comfort zone a bit, focusing on a different subject matter. Donaghy’s mural is the one near Fourth Street Crossing, including a brown trout and some wildflowers.

“It’s good to remember that our storm drains go straight to the river, and we need to be taking care of that resource as best we can,” Donaghy said. “So it was a fun way to get some more art into the community plus bring a little awareness around that.”


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