Rolling out the rain barrels

July 17, 2009 (Oak Park, Ill.) They are eye-catching and intriguing, but if you take a closer look at the rain barrels lining the streets of Oak Park and River Forest these days. You'll see that they offer much more.

There are fish. There are flowers and even some familiar faces dotting the streets of Oak Park and River Forest. These showpieces are actually rain barrels, dressed up and set out on display.

Patrick Klette of Oak Park said, "It's nice to see them around town. It gives Oak Park a little more color."

There are about a hundred rain barrels in all -- commissioned by local business owners and hand-painted by residents, churches, schools and professional artists.

Val Camilletti, owner of Val's Halla Records said, "We hope that underneath it all will be a message about conserving water, but it think that artistically, it builds up the whole village and it's a cool thing."

The project is the brainchild of the League of Women Voters of Oak Park-River Forest. They've attached water facts and conservation tips to each barrel with hopes the art will also be educational.

"We don't think that rain barrels are for everyone," explained Amy Little of the League of Women Voters of Oak Park-River Forest. "What we really want people to do is disconnect their downspouts if they can. Just don't put your water into the combined sewers. The water actually goes to the Gulf of Mexico when it goes into the sewers, and if you get it back into the lawns, then it goes back into the Lake Michigan watershed."

The message seems to be getting across.

"On our block we've seen at least four people get rain barrels since then," said Oak Park resident Katharine Klette. "I think it's making people think about how they're using their water and where they want it to go."

The rain barrels will be on display through the end of summer. Many will be sold at auction during Oak Park's annual "Oktoberfest."

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