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Hundreds show up to transform wall along Plaster Creek into a mural

The Plaster Creek has been polluted for years, and the mural is part of a larger effort to raise awareness to keep it clean.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As rush hour traffic traveled on the Madison Avenue bridge over the Plaster Creek Trail, a wall on the trail was beginning to take shape. It featured the sky, the water, trees, fish, birds, and people.

The image was a far cry from what the wall looked like just a few months ago - grey, drab, and covered with profanity-riddled graffiti.

"We've had a one-and-a-half year old here earlier painting and an 86 year old was here earlier painting. So people that are putting their work on the wall that's going to be here forever, that is going to impact the community, is really exciting," said artist Alyson Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is a fine art supervisor at the Salvation Army Kroc Center. For this project, she's been tasked with making an outline for the mural and instructing community volunteers who are filling in the artwork.

"It's not just about the artwork that I'm creating. It's about the work that we can all do together to beautify the space and bring awareness to the health of the creek," Rodriguez said.

Staci DeVries organized the Plaster Creek Mural Project to shine a light on the Plaster Creek, which has been polluted for years. She's part of an army of people working to create a better future for the creek.

"There's the Plaster Creek Stewards that are educating us about what can happen when you put a rain garden in, when you plant native, how those deep roots can soak up water and how the rain gardens can prevent runoff and how using less chemicals in your yard means that the water doesn't get slowed down by chemicals," DeVries said.

"All this connectedness means that the river is improving and that it will improve. So yeah, that's the bigger mission - that we can see kids be able to splash in here again, and for trout and walleye to run once again."

Friday's work began early in the day. DeVries says 85 people showed up in the morning alone before dozens of others joined the effort in the afternoon.

"I could probably cry because it meant so much - people spending a couple of vacation hours, their lunch breaks, they're bringing their kids. That's not convenient to bring your kids, but it shows them what i means to serve and invest in your community. I'm so thankful," she said.

The mural will receive some touch ups and an anti-graffiti coat before it's all done.

Over the summer, organizers plan to hold a community walk so people can appreciate the mural and the trail. A date for that walk has not been released yet, but you can follow the Plaster Creek Mural Project Facebook page to stay up to date.

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