Clay frog

There is a new project literally underfoot in Blacksburg that has potential for changing our built streetscapes, as well as restoring the health of one of our natural waterways. The project, titled “16 Frogs” is a public arts initiative with an environmental conscience.  It highlights the region’s freshwater heritage which fostered Blacksburg’s development in its earliest days, and references the town’s original sixteen-block street grid, as mapped by founder William Black and incorporated in 1798.

16 life-size bronze statuettes will form a trail through the Stroubles Mill watershed, largely in Blacksburg’s historic central business district.  Modeled after the native Green Frog Lithobates clamitans, some will rest upon casts of Virginia’s native lily pad, Nymphaea odorata.  They will range from 6” – 12” in size, and sit on pavement, knee walls, stormwater drains, or sills. The area of installation is bound by the Keisters Branch tributary of Stroubles Creek on the north to the Eastern Continental Divide where it crosses Main Street, south of town.  A ribbon-cutting for the placement of the first of the 16 Frogs will occur during Blacksburg’s Sustainability Week, which occurs each year on the third week in September.

The frogs will be enjoyed by toddlers on discovery; by school children investigating stream ecology; by runners, walkers, or geocachers; by history buffs, tourists, and arts patrons. In addition, the statues will mark the course of Stroubles Creek and its tributaries, a water course which desperately needs clean-up and restoration from an informed public. In fact, for too many years, Stroubles Creek has been significantly compromised, and is considered one of the most polluted waterways in the state.

Though recent efforts have been made to create biological filters and to daylight the stream in strategic locations, Stroubles Creek still largely runs under town streets, beneath buildings, and below the VT drill field.  Stormwater enters the creek, unfiltered, and flows directly back into the New River, the source of our drinking water.  It will take the combined efforts of state and local government, the university, and an educated public to restore this vital waterway.

Lots of individuals and groups have come together to make the 16 Frogs project happen: Seek Education, Explore, and DiScover (SEEDS, Inc); Downtown Blacksburg, Inc.; The Alexander Black House & Cultural Center; The Lyric Theater Council; Downtown Events, Inc; Sustainable Blacksburg; the Community Foundation of the New River Valley, the Susan Garrison Fund, and the Town of Blacksburg. For more information about the 16 Frogs initiative, please contact cdavis@blacksburg.gov.

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