Prospect Park encourages residents to ‘adopt’ their local storm drains

The Prospect Park Association is pushing residents to clean neighborhood storm drains.

Kassidy Tarala

The Prospect Park Association is working to prevent pollutants from entering waterways by encouraging residents to “adopt” local storm drains.   

Started in 2016, the City of Minneapolis’ Adopt-A-Drain Program lets residents volunteer to clean out designated storm drains throughout the city. When storm drains fill with debris, pollutants can enter local water bodies like the Mississippi River. Badly clogged drains can also result in neighborhood flooding. 

Just four of roughly 260 drains in Prospect Park have been adopted, prompting PPA members to try to increase resident involvement. The PPA’s Environment Committee met last week to discuss updates to the effort.

“People just didn’t know about it, but I think once we promote the program more, it will really take off,” PPA Environment Committee member Jennifer Michlitsch said.

By the end of last year, 344 people signed up to adopt storm drains throughout the city, bringing the total number of adopters to just over 500, said Adopt-A-Drain Program Coordinator Lane Christianson.

“Last fall, our adopters collected more than 1,000 bags of leaves and garbage, removing over 35,000 pounds of garbage citywide,” Christianson said.   

Adopt-A-Drain program coordinators worked with Hamline University to create door hangers specific to various neighborhoods, he said, which attracted more residents to the effort. Such a project in Prospect Park could have similar success, Christianson added. 

Since Adopt-A-Drain hasn’t reached as many residents as planned, Christianson said coordinators have temporarily halted the program to mull improvements. 

“We’re adding a new online program where they can go online and pick the storm drains they want to adopt on a GIS-based map,” he said. “They can see in their neighborhood which storm drains are already adopted.”

This mapping system will become available to the public on April 23, the day after Earth Day. Michlitsch said she thinks the new format will be more appealing to Prospect Park residents.

“I’m going to start a campaign around the neighborhood, and I’ll also be promoting the program on some of our social accounts,” she said. 

Michlitsch said she plans to attach balloons with signs that read “adopt me” on storm drains throughout Prospect Park. The signs will include direct links to their digital maps. 

Tony Pollock, a current drain adopter, said the program offers a chance to get involved with and care for the community.

“I enthusiastically recommend the program to everyone who will sit still long enough to hear me go on about it,” Pollock said. “I am a big fan of anything that will help people take better care of Mother Earth.”

A resident of the Audubon Park neighborhood, Pollock said he adopted a drain that empties directly into the Mississippi River when he moved into his house a couple years ago.

“I try to be the best possible steward of the little piece of Earth I own, and make a point to use no chemicals on my yard to keep the contaminants out of the river,” he said. “I like the idea that I can positively impact such an important thing as the river through my own direct actions.”

Pollock said he is excited for the program’s digital update and hopes to see more people becoming involved. 

“I plan to be [an adopter] for as long as I am physically able to do so. It will be interesting to see how things will change with the fancy digital stuff,” he said.