They’re not just coloured with sidewalk chalk. The yellow fish that suddenly appeared on Okotoks streets at the end of May were painted on the road with environmentally safe paint to safeguard sensitive aquatic ecosystems in Southern Alberta.
The Yellow Fish Road project was launched in 1991 by Trout Unlimited Canada to create awareness of urban storm water drains. The fish were painted the last weekend of May by Okotoks Guide Guides and Pathfinders as part of this project to garner attention for the dangers of polluting our roadways.
The schools of small yellow painted fish are all painted close to Okotoks storm water drains and are there to remind residents that contaminates such as oil, antifreeze, detergent and fertilizer should be kept off roadways. Anything that flows down the street to the drain goes through the storm water system to the nearest river or wetland.
Communities across Canada have participated in the program for the past 25 years.
So much public education still needs to be done as many residents believe that waste water that runs down the street as storm water is treated at municipal facilities rather than running into rivers and streams. Or, storm water ponds which are popular urban features these days.
Girl Guides and Pathfinder groups have been volunteer fish painters since the National program began but 2016 marks the first time that girls in Okotoks have become involved.
The groups of girls concentrated their efforts in certain areas of town, like the Suntree neighbourhood and Tower Hill area. The area is small and there are more storm water drains that the average Okotoks might imagine, with 108 in the Suntree neighbourhood alone.
To manage the risk, the girls and their adult leaders are sure to put up orange safety cones while setting up their painting stations. In addition to the roadwork, door hangers in the way of cardboard fish are distributed door to door in the community as a reminder of what the Yellow Fish Road Project is all about.
In 2017, the group hopes to cover more of the Town of Okotoks and will expand to local Scout, Venturers and Rangers groups. Members aged 10 and older will be able to participate.
This community service project not only educates the public about keeping dangerous items off roadways and out of our storm water sewer systems, it acts as a valuable community service project for the Girl Guides as they have a lot of fun while learning about the impact every day suburban life can have on the water supply and wetlands.
Leaders believe that it will take five more years of painting every spring to get the entire Town of Okotoks painted, just in time to cycle through and start all over back in Suntree and Tower Hill.
Trout Unlimited is a non-profit organization in Canada that promotes awareness of healthy watersheds in our country. Storm-drain paint kits are provided to community organizations eager to get involved. Complete information is available on the organization’s website.