Home Official News Releases Drake seniors develop wildlife mural at Gray’s Lake Park

Drake seniors develop wildlife mural at Gray’s Lake Park

News Photo
Drake senior Nina Gray paints an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, one of the butterflies often seen at the park.

CONTACTS: Keith Summerville, Drake University professor, 515-271-2265;

Teva Dawson, Des Moines park and recreation horticulture inspector, 515-208-0308

A group of Drake University seniors hopes to raise environmental awareness in the Des Moines community by creating a wildlife mural along Gray’s Lake Park’s Kruidenier Trail.

The Connecting to Nature: Community Eco-Mural project will feature images of birds, butterflies, tree rings and animal tracks. The public art installation is designed to remain on the trail surface throughout the summer months. The flora and fauna that will be depicted on the trail are all native to central Iowa and can often be seen by visitors at the park.

The students began painting butterflies at the west end of the trail’s bridge this week as part of their senior capstone project in Drake’s Environmental Science and Policy Department. They hope to complete the painting with hands-on help from the general public and students attending Scavo Alternative High School during a kick-off event at the park from 1–5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14. In the event of rain, the event will be rescheduled for 1–5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21.

Scavo teachers Suzet Nelson and Ellen Robinson coordinated the opportunity for students in neighborhood revival, environmental science or art classes to earn credit toward graduation through contribution to the project. Des Moines Parks and Recreation is developing informative displays and brochures about local wildlife for the kick-off event and the Drake students are developing a website to provide more information about the project.

News Photo
Leah Tran and Tara Lange transfer a template for a butterfly to the trail.

“The park’s Kruidenier Trail will be used by hundreds of thousands of
people in the next few months,” said Teva Dawson, Gray’s Lake Park manager. “If we can educate them about the natural resources around
them, they may develop an appreciation of the ecology and wildlife they
might see in all of our Des Moines parks.”


The Drake seniors conducting the project are:

  • Leah Tran – Des Moines, major in environmental science
  • Tara Lange – Orion, IL, majors drawing, field ecology and nature illustration
  • Nina Gray – Rockford, IL, double majors in environmental science and anthropology
  • Rachel Zieske – Eden Prairie, MN, double majors in environmental science and environmental policy

“I’m from Des Moines,” Tran said, “but I’m finding this is a whole
different way to experience Gray’s Lake Park. I’m amazed at the many
types of butterflies you can see here. This project is a great way to
make people aware of the many other species that also use the park.”

For more information about the project and kick-off event, contact
Drake professor Keith Summerville, 515-271-2265,
keith.summerville@drake.edu; Drake student Leah Tran, leah.tran@drake.edu; or Teva Dawson, Park and Recreation Horticulture
Inspector at 515-323-8907, TLDawson@dmgov.org.