A painted rock at a parking meter in uptown Oxford. BRENNEN KAUFFMAN

Have you seen these hand-painted rocks popping up around Oxford? Here’s why.

Stones with cute animals, colorful decorations, or inspirational phrases are being left around the city as part of Oxford Ohio Rocks, which is both a Facebook group and an interactive game.

Cristin Grenier started the program last summer. She said she heard of the program while visiting her sister in Champagne, Ill. Small groups across the country have run similar events (the Facebook page for the group in Jefferson City, Missouri has over 12,000 members).

After coming back to Ohio, she did not find a similar program anywhere in the state. So Grenier decided to start her own.

She and her three children painted and hid the original two dozen rocks around the area.

The front of the rocks were painted with bright colors and either cute logos or inspirational quotes. To promote the activity, each rock had the name of the Facebook group painted or printed onto the back.

Word spread among the mothers and families in the area, and the activity took off. The Oxford Ohio Rocks group on Facebook has 671 members.

“Kids in this community are very art-centered, I find,” Grenier said.

There were rock-painting events at You’re Fired, the pottery painting store Uptown, and at the summer concert series. Rocks were often in public places outdoors, but some have been found on the shelves of Lane Library or the produce section of Kroger. The locations of the rocks also began spreading outside of Oxford. Oxford rocks ended up in Kentucky and Disney World, while a rock from a West Virginia group was found in Oxford.

The event has helped Grenier connect with other families in the area. She and her husband Jonathan have lived in Oxford for eight years, but many families only know her from the group. Members of the Facebook group have called her “the rock lady” when they first met in person. She also enjoys seeing the pictures of delighted children appear in the group.

She also uses the group to expose more people to the history of Oxford. Last summer there would be weekly prize puzzles; a riddle would be posted in the group about the location of a special rock, and whoever found it would win a prize.

“I’d use it to point out different places in town and different monuments,” Grenier explained.

She plans to bring the prizes back later this summer in collaboration with You’re Fired. Plenty of stones are already scattered around the area, waiting to be found and appreciated.