Dancers, youth honored for highway cleanup efforts
What do the Choo Choo Square Dancers and Dingle Ward Young Men & Young Women have in common? More than meets the eye.
Both Pocatello groups share a commitment to keep Idaho beautiful and free of roadside litter. And both will be honored next week for their participation in the Idaho Transportation Departments Adopt-a-Highway program.
The transportation board will present certificates and clocks fashioned from an Idaho license plate replica to the groups when the board meets at the District 5 office Wednesday (Sept. 15). The ceremony is planned for approximately 10 a.m.
Groups from the Dingle Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints use their cleanup efforts to fulfill service hours required for achievement awards. They clean a section of U.S. 30 between mileposts 437 and 439 twice a year.
Leaders say the young men and women usually conclude their cleanup campaign with a hotdog or hamburger barbecue. Like postal carriers, they labor in sunshine, wind and rain.
They joined ITDs Adopt-A-Highway program in 1992. In the past four years, they gathered more than three tons (6,510 pounds) of refuse. They also collected volumes of larger items that cannot be stuffed into trash bags cardboard, tires, wood and other large, bulky items. Those items dont contribute to the official record, but leave the highway significantly cleaner.
Co-recipients of the District 5 award, the Choo Choo Square Dancers patrol Interstate 15 from milepost 75 to 77. They began collecting in 1999. To date, they have collected more than 21,000 pounds of roadside trash during nine outings. Jerri Ross, of the ITD District 5 office, and her husband Art are members of the dance group and help coordinate its cleanup efforts.
They say members volunteer out of service to the community and because outings provide social interaction away from the dance floor. They often work up to the semiannual campaign by sharing cinnamon rolls and conclude the cleanup with a group lunch.
Although no one has come away rich, dancers occasionally find dollar bills among the blowing roadside litter.
The Adopt-A-Highway program organizes the cleaning of Idaho roadsides by volunteer groups. Those groups adopt a specific stretch of highway usually two miles long and take responsibility for keeping it clean through regular litter patrols.
More than 1,200 groups spent approximately 114,000 person hours removing litter in 2003. About 55 percent of state highways have been adopted, leaving ample opportunities for other groups and individuals to become involved.
The volume of material collected from the shoulders of Idaho highways more than doubled the past year, largely because of better monitoring and reporting, said statewide AAH coordinator Sherie Sweaney.
Volunteers collected more than 2.3 million pounds of litter, resulting in a savings to the state of nearly a quarter-million dollars that can be applied to other projects that improve safety and driving conditions.
For information about adopting a stretch of highway, contact Sweaney at 334-8465 or (800) 443-2878.