Stencil storm drains and more with FMR

A small group of young women stand proudly by their freshly painted work to help the river.

All the educational messages next to St. Paul storm drains are done by volunteers working with FMR! Above: A group of students from Neighborhood House stands proudly by their work.

If you're looking for a great service outing that is educational, active, outdoors and provides a significant community benefit, consider storm drain stenciling. Reservations for stenciling outings and presentations, as well as group cleanups, are offered mid-April through mid-October as the weather permits. 

FMR can organize stenciling outings, presentations and cleanups in St. Paul for most any local group — school, church, neighborhood or corporate — thanks to the support of the St. Paul Public Works Program. We also have new, special programs that allow us to work with youth groups to organize stenciling outings, presentations and cleanups in North or Northeast Minneapolis (a.k.a. the "Above the Falls" area) and along the parkway or Mississippi River Gorge in South Minneapolis.

If you're familiar with the stenciling program and ready to suggest a date for your outing (or your cleanup or presentation), go ahead and check out our Group Stenciling, Cleanup Or Presentation Request Form. If not, the basics are below.

What is storm drain stenciling?

Using paint and stencils, volunteers mark storm drains with the message, "Keep 'em Clean, Drains to River (Lake or Creek)!" and distribute educational doorhangers to neighborhood homes and businesses.

This hands-on outdoor service activity is an ideal opportunity to improve our local water resources —and an excellent fit for groups looking for a fun, outdoor team-building experience with immediate results.

A storm drain stenciling service outing:
• is just 1 1/2-2 hours in length
• can be scheduled according to your needs (and the stenciling coordinator's availability)
• normally can accommodate anywhere from 20 to 200 people, but during the pandemic, we're able to work with groups of 15-25 (Have fewer than 15? Check out a stenciling kit!)
• is entirely free with all supplies provided

What do volunteers do?

First, the stenciling coordinator provides an educational presentation on how storm drains connect to the river. Unlike household water systems, storm sewers flow directly into our local waters, depositing whatever they pick up along the way — pesticides, motor oil, fertilizer, pet waste — directly to the nearest lake or river. Unfiltered. Untreated. The presentation is brief, engaging and can be tailored to the age and interests of your group.

Next, using spray paint and stencils, volunteers mark storm drains with the message, "Keep 'em Clean Drains to River!" Volunteers wear orange safety vests and orange safety cones are placed in the area. (All supplies provided.)

Volunteers also distribute educational doorhangers to nearby homes and businesses, making a visual connection between the newly stenciled drains and local water quality, and what they can do in their home and yard to help protect our local waters. 

Volunteers rotate between spray painting and distributing educational materials.

Who can participate, where?

In St. Paul, FMR works with any group of 20 or more. Classrooms and community, youth, church, corporate and informal neighborhood or family groups are all welcome. If you don't have 20 or more people in your groups, you're welcome to check out an FMR stenciling kit

In Minneapolis, FMR can work with youth-focused groups. (Adult and corporate groups can stencil with Minneapolis through the Minneapolis Department of Public Works.)

Volunteers living, attending school or working in Saint Paul or Minneapolis can usually mark drains near their homes, school or office. The stenciling coordinator will work with you and your group to select your location.

FMR presentations can be tailored to the age and interest level of your group. Typically, participants must be in at least 4th grade, however, we can make exceptions for groups with younger children if a significant, up to one-to-one, adult-to-youth ratio can be provided within the group.

If the above locations don't work for you, please review this list of other local storm drain marking programs.

Because what we do in our yards can cause water pollution, we encourage participants to continue educating friends, neighbors and coworkers about the easy ways to keep our water safe and healthy for the future.

When and how do I plan an outing?

FMR conducts this program mid-April through mid-October (weather permitting). Depending on how many groups are currently signed up and your group size, it can take two to eight weeks to coordinate your outing.

To schedule your outing or inquire further about stenciling, please submit a request through our online Group Stenciling, Cleanup Or Presentation Request Form; you will be asked to provide us with some basic information about your group and your preferred dates for an outing. We will return your e-mail within a week. (Groups of 15 or more are welcome to also request a cleanup or presentation via the form.)

What's in a storm drain stenciling kit?

Need a sneak peek at the kit before signing one out? Program assistant Daurius Mikroberts runs through the ingredients in this video by volunteer Will Stock: