Resident Turns Trash Into Art to Inspire Action

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Resident Turns Trash Into Art to Inspire Action

Missy Parker - Turtle Project
Resident Turns Trash Into Art to Inspire Action

Columbia Heights resident Missy Parker hopes to bring attention to the issue of trash in parks and lakes with a capstone thesis project that combines her passions of nature and art. As part of this project, Parker designed an art piece made entirely out of run-off trash that will be displayed on a park fence in Sullivan Lake Park over the next month.

“I’ve just noticed so much trash in the lake, which ruins the nice vibe of all the nature,” Parker said. “It’s not necessarily that people are littering. I found a lot of it was runoff into the lake.”

The art piece is designed to draw attention to these and other environmental issues and encourage residents to help keep local parks and waterways clean.

“If everyone grabs a plastic grocery bag when they go to the park and fills it up when they go around, they can help start making a difference,” Parker said. “I hope people will get a little bit of inspiration from seeing the artwork.”

The turtle was crocheted from about 250 Star Tribune and Cub Foods bags. The trash on it was collected from Sullivan Lake Park between March and May, 2020.

Parker, who’s earning her master’s in natural science and environmental education from Hamline University, also wants to use the piece to inform community members of proper food options for animals in the park. Bread and processed foods can be harmful to animals and can contribute to litter and pollution, she said.

“I notice a lot of people feeding bread or old tortillas to the ducks and geese,” Parker said. “It’s people who want to share nature with their kids, but maybe not the best way of doing it.”

See the link at the bottom of this story for her tips on bringing better food options.

Another way residents can help is by adopting a storm drain upstream. Curbside storm drains channel groundwater runoff from lawns, sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots, which then flows into local ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers. Pollutants and litter harm wildlife and recreation areas. Special concerns include phosphorus fertilizers, petroleum products, salt, erosion sediments, and garbage.

The Adopt-a-Storm drain program calls on residents in the seven-county Metro Area and Rochester to adopt a drain near them by committing to keep it clear of leaves, trash, and other debris. Sign up to adopt a drain or find more info at

For more information on Missy Parker’s project and other ways you can help take care of nature, visit her website at