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Antonie Boessenkool/The Californian

Jessica Felix (left) of Keep Bakersfield Beautiful unveils the artistic cigarette receptacles that will be adopted by local downtown businesses.

Downtown Bakersfield will soon get a new touch of artistry -- the nicest cigarette butt receptacles you've ever seen.

Cigarette butts are the most prevalent piece of trash that volunteers who pick up litter around Bakersfield see, said Jessica Felix of the Keep Bakersfield Beautiful Committee, the city's litter pick-up and beautification group that's part of the solid waste division.

So the committee, using two grants, bought 72 free-standing cigarette butt receptacles and recruited local artists, students and other volunteers to paint them.

The Downtown Business Association helped by finding local businesses in downtown Bakersfield willing to adopt the containers and maintain them. The receptacles are free to those businesses that want them, but business owners have to agree to empty them, store them and care for them.

Keep Bakersfield Beautiful unveiled the containers at the Bakersfield Art Center Friday morning.

"It's too bad that when we walk the streets, we have to walk over cigarette butts," said Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall, who organizes regular volunteer litter pick-up efforts. "Hopefully, with this project, we will eliminate that."

"It's great, the amount of volunteer effort that went into modifying these containers to look so beautiful and look so happy," he said.

Indeed, the work done to decorate the otherwise plain-looking receptacles is impressive. Felix painted one herself with an underwater scene complete with a colorful mermaid, fish and coral.

"If businesses are sick and tired of sweeping up all the cigarette butts around their place, they should call Keep Bakersfield Beautiful" for a container, she said. Besides being unsightly, cigarette butts are non-biodegradable and a chocking hazard for children and animals, Felix said.

Of the 72 receptacles Keep Bakersfield Beautiful bought, there are still 22 left to paint, Felix said. Anyone interested in decorating one can call Keep Bakersfield Beautiful at 326-3539.

Also, there are 15 to 20 painted receptacles that haven't been claimed by local businesses. Business owners who want one and agree to maintain it also can get in touch with Keep Bakersfield Beautiful.

Keep Bakersfield Beautiful decided to give the receptacles to businesses downtown because of the high number of cigarette butts committee members and volunteers find during litter clean-ups along Chester Avenue from California Avenue up to Garces Circle. Felix said a recent study by the committee of trash in three areas along Chester Avenue netted about 600 butts in half an hour.

Toni Lott, manager of the Bakersfield Art Center, said the center and artists associated with it talked to neighboring business owners to see if they'd be interested in having a receptacle in front their businesses. The artists designed some of the containers for specific businesses -- a pink receptacle with paw prints will go in front of Biscuit Boutique & Doggie Spa and one intricately painted with a lighthouse will go in front of Curiosity Shop Antiques.

"They were happy to be able to choose" a receptacle for the front of their businesses, Lott said.