The 250-pound metal walleye sculpture created by Mitch Beursken, fleet supervisor for Lorain County Metro Parks, is more than a striking work of art. It’s a pointed reminder that none of us should put our recycling efforts on the back burner.
Debuting last year at Lakeview Park, the 5-and-a-half-foot-tall piece has a design that incorporates more than 4,500 plastic bottles park visitors donated for the project. The artist chose the image of a walleye to represent the fish’s prized culinary popularity and the fact that it’s native to Lake Erie.
“The reason we filled the sculpture with plastic bottles is because we want to spread the message about the problem of plastics getting into our waterways,” says Bev Walborn, outdoor experiences manager for Lorain County Metro Parks. “We’re pleased when visitors take the time to study the fish and are attentive to what it says about the importance of clean water and what they can do to help.”
When a plastic bottle hits the waves, it breaks down into small pieces of microplastics, which mimic the look of food. Although walleye are carnivorous by nature and partial to aquatic insects, gizzard chad and yellow perch, they’re also attracted to the plastic. Once they consume it, the pieces lodge into their muscle tissue, which can lead to starvation and reduced growth.
“The plastic can also be present in the muscle tissue of the fish people catch and eat,” Walborn says.
She offers tips for what we can all do to reduce the amount of plastic found in lakes, rivers and oceans. They include limiting the use of plastics such as straws, bottles and bags; recycling plastics; using products made with post-consumer recycled materials; and helping with local cleanup efforts to keep plastic litter from entering waterways.
“To be a good steward of our environment in Lorain County and everywhere, we need to keep our land and waters clean,” Walborn says. “Reducing the amount of waste that we have will reduce the amount of items going into our landfills. If we have to utilize plastics and other materials, recycling them is the best way to help them become another product.”
The sculpture, currently at the French Creek Nature Center, will be on display and make stops throughout the park system. For more information, call 440-458-5121 or visit loraincountymetroparks.com