Trash is trash, regardless of size and shape. Just ask a teenager who was engaged in an Adopt-A-Highway campaign a few miles west of Chubbuck. After depositing an array from fast-food packaging and soda cans into her garbage bag she picked up a rifle from along the highway and routinely stuffed it into her bag with the other refuse.
After pondering the unique find for a while, she reported it to one of the adult leaders of the highway cleanup. Contacts with local law enforcement officers revealed the rifle had been used in a homicide that had been under investigation.
Most of the litter gleaned from Interstate 86 between mileposts 55 and 57 is much more mundane for youth group members of the Bannock Creek Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ-latter Day Saints.
The Idaho Transportation Board will honor the youth group, which has maintained a litter vigilance of the two-mile section since 1999, next week when it meets in Pocatello. The presentation is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday (Aug. 18) at ITD’s District 5 office, 5151 S. Fifth St.
Representatives will receive a certificate and a clock fashioned from a replica of an Idaho license plate as a reward for their continuing efforts. Claylon Perkins and Kevin Neibaur are the group’s adult sponsors.
In the past six years the group has picked up approximately 15 tons of litter during 13 outings, beginning early in the spring and continuing regularly until winter arrives.
Jeri Ross, who coordinates the Adopt-A-Highway program in southeastern Idaho’s District 5, says the LDS youth group went beyond its traditional charge one year when teens mowed part of their adopted section just to demonstrate their pride in the area.
The LDS group will share Adopt-A-Highway honors with the Power County Sheriff’s Commission Inmate Labor Detail. Since joining the state’s highway cleanup program in 2000, the inmate detail has steadily expanded its territory.
While most Adopt-A-Highway groups commit to cleaning two-mile sections, the inmates began with a 10-mile segment of I-86, between mileposts 17 and 27.
With time on their hands and miles of unadopted highway in the region, the inmate group added two more miles between mileposts 47 to 49 and three years ago expanded by another seven miles. In their six years with the highway cleanup campaign, inmates collected 288,890 pounds of litter in 80 outings to their 10-mile segment, 19,836 pounds from their two-mile segment and another 11,620 pounds from their newest section.
That constitutes more than 320,000 pounds (160 tons) of discarded refuse. In addition, inmates also harvested another 600 pounds from other adopted areas that needed additional help.
The inmate labor detail is responsible for sections of I-86 near the Coldwater Rest Area, from the American Falls city limits to the I-86 business loop, the Massacre Rocks rest area and several other exits.
This is the fourth time the inmate detail has been honored for its efforts.
The AAH 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 1,150 groups spent approximately 27,404 person-hours statewide 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 2.3 million pounds of litter in 2004, 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 more information about adopting a stretch of highway, contact Sweaney at (800) 443-2878.