A local nonprofit is looking forward to new environmental sculptures becoming part of "Art That Inspires Change," as part of its Cleaner Greener Gahanna litter initiative.

Make Gahanna Yours president Becky Kneeland said volunteers will fill a new buckeye tree sculpture with litter picked up during the annual fall cleanup scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, at Friendship Park, 150 Oklahoma Ave.

Since 2016, Make Gahanna Yours volunteers have picked up over two tons of litter in Gahanna as part of the Cleaner Greener Gahanna initiative.

The tree sculpture is one of five works made possible by a $65,000 Recycle Ohio grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, whose mission is to coordinate and implement statewide and local programs for litter control.

The goal is to help raise community awareness about the effects of littering, the importance of recycling, the elimination of single-use plastic items and the preservation of Gahanna's natural resources.

A dedication of the sculpture will be held close to noon to culminate the cleanup, Kneeland said.

In case of inclement weather, the event will be held from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3.

Kneeland said she hopes the four other sculptures are complete and installed at four other parks by the event.

Those include a largemouth bass to be placed on the island at Creekside Park, to signify how litter affects marine life and can travel from a creek to a river and ultimately the ocean.

In a nod to Gahanna's Pollinator City designation, Academy Park will receive a bee on a flower, and Sunpoint Park will receive a butterfly, she said.

A sculpture of Ohio's state bird, a cardinal, will be at Woodside Green Park.

Make Gahanna Yours commissioned the sculptures to help raise awareness of how litter affects natural resources and wildlife and to highlight the steps everyone can take to improve the current situation in the community, according to Kneeland.

Each sculpture is made out of a steel-mesh shell and painted metal pieces and will be installed with an interpretive sign.

"Public art catches people's attention," Kneeland said. "It is a great place-making tool and is also one that can be used to educate.

"Through these sculptures, we are telling a story about the natural animal inhabitants and environment of our area and the importance of protecting them. Additionally, public art serves as a beautification tool, which deters negative behaviors such as littering and dumping."

Trash will be added to these sculptures during the fall Cleaner Greener Gahanna event, but people should not use them as trash cans, Kneeland said.

"We hope that those who join in the presentation and dedication of these sculptures will feel ownership and empowerment in protecting the earth and will encourage others to help," said Renee Mallett, who wrote the grant. "These environmental sculptures will serve as a perpetual visual education and a reminder of the effects of litter on our community and the environment."

Jim Swaim, an environmentally minded artist from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, created the sculptures.

Swaim, a former set designer and production manager for the entertainment industry, began creating environmental sculptures about five years ago after participating in a river-sweep event on the coast, when he noticed large amounts of litter floating throughout the South Carolina Intracoastal Waterway.

"There are so many horrible stories out there about what litter is doing to our oceans and waterways," Swaim said. "I had to take action."

Kneeland said Make Gahanna Yours also will propose some changes to Gahanna's litter ordinances to expand the definition of litter to align with Keep America Beautiful's definition.

At present, plastic items and cigarette butts are not part of Gahanna's definition of litter, but they're two of the biggest sources of litter, she said.

The group also will offer an Adopt-An-Area program on its website.

Families, businesses, school groups and other nonprofits can specify an area they want to commit to cleaning up a minimum of two times a year, Kneeland said.

For additional details or to volunteer for the fall citywide cleanup event and sculpture dedication, go online to makegahannayours.com.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla