When Payette County inmates hit the road, it usually results in a clean getaway – the path they leave behind is free of trash and creates a welcome greeting to motorists entering three southwest Idaho communities.
For their work, the Payette County Sheriff’s inmate labor program was honored as one of two outstanding District 3 participants in the Idaho Transportation Department’s Adopt-A-Highway (AAH) program this week. The Independent Order of Foresters shared the limelight during the transportation board’s Thursday meeting in Boise.
While many AAH groups adopt more than the required two-mile segment of state highway, the inmates go the extra mile – or an extra 54 miles. They have adopted 56.3 miles of state highway, including more than 40 new miles that were added this year.
Inmates have been patrolling highway rights-of-way since 1991. Records from early outings along Interstate 84 aren’t available, but in the past decade the inmates have cleaned 79 tons of litter from their adopted roadways. Since March 2004, they picked up an additional 16 tons of trash through a volunteer services program from spots they hadn’t formally adopted through AAH.
Henry Hixson, who coordinates the program for the sheriff’s department, says inmates are motivated by two factors: 1) pride in accomplishing “something worthwhile” and 2) a desire to avoid repeat performances. Workers who have been out on the road picking up trash in inclement weather think twice about wanting to “come see me again,” he says.
Last year, the group’s recycling efforts returned $680 to Payette County. Among the most unusual items inmates retrieved from highway shoulders was a full-size station wagon luggage rack.
In addition to continuing to clean their original 17-mile segment of I-84 (milepost 0-17), inmates also clean Idaho 52 (milepost 0-14), U.S. 95 (milepost 53-69) and U.S. 30 (milepost 21-31). Adopted segments pass through three communities – Payette, Fruitland and New Plymouth.
Members of the Independent Order of Foresters appreciate the importance of maintaining a trash-free environment. They are responsible for two miles of Idaho 52 (mileposts 28-30). In 11 years of participation in the AAH program, the forest group has never missed a cleanup date.
They have conducted 26 cleanups, and since 1996, collected eight tons of litter.
Both groups received the praise of transportation board members and a commemorative clock made from a replica of an Idaho license plate.
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.