Two groups that share a passion for community service and a pride in its appearance recently were acknowledged as Adopt-A-Highway Groups of the Year for the Idaho Transportation Department’s District 2 in north-central Idaho.
Transportation board members presented awards to representatives of the Orofino Rotary Club and the Clearwater Chapter of A.B.A.T.E. during their board meeting in Lewiston May 19. The organizations received a framed certificate and a clock fashioned from a state license plate replica.
It was an encore performance for the Rotary Club, which also received the district award for highway cleanups in 2000. Club members have been involved in the campaign to remove litter from state highways since April 1997.
The group adopted a 1.5-mile segment of Idaho 7, beginning at milepost 52. Two years later, club members added another adjoining segment, and for the past six years have been responsible for a 3.5-mile section, beginning at milepost 50 – from Orofino west to the Ahsahka Bridge.
Since early 2001, approximately 145 Rotarians have participated in the cleanup, collectively devoting 29 hours to the cleanup. The fruits of their efforts are 235 bags of litter. Quarterly highway-cleaning campaigns generally draw about 10 club members who spend about two hours picking up trash and debris left behind by passing motorists. They average about 16 filled trash bags per outing.
“We try to schedule quarterly pick-ups (weather permitting) over a year, usually in January, April (in conjunction with a general community-wide cleanup), July and October,” explained Wayne H. Olson, who is chair of the group’s Adopt-A-Highway effort.
The highway cleanup program also provided an excellent opportunity for A.B.A.T.E. to increase its visibility, share its mission to educate drivers and to make a difference in the community. The group became an Adopt-A-Highway partner in 2002. Since that time, it has conducted six litter collections and removed 1,225 pounds of litter. A.B.A.T.E. is responsible for U.S. 12, between mileposts 52 and 54.
A.B.A.T.E. (American Bikers Aiming Toward Education) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to furthering safety and acceptance of motorcycles and their riders. The group emphasizes motorcycle rights and works to make roads safer for motorcyclists and automobile drivers.
It is a strong supporter of the Idaho S.T.A.R. motorcycle education/training program.
In addition to cleaning their assigned segment of highway, group members also raise money for local organizations, participate in food drives and Toys for Tots and help the needy. The group purchased playground equipment for the Pierce/Weippe Head Start program and donated a video library to the Clearwater Valley Hospital pediatrics ward.
They usually conclude their Adopt-A-Highway outings with a big barbecue.
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.
Approximately 1,150 groups committed 27,404 person hours to removing litter in 2004. 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 makes a tremendous difference in the appearance of Idaho’s highways, said statewide AAH coordinator Sherie Sweaney.
Volunteers collected more than one million pounds of litter last year, resulting in a savings to the state of about $250,000 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.