Zoe and Maya Simkins want to leave their mark on the environment by removing the marks that others leave behind.
At age 12 and 9 respectively, they find it difficult to comprehend why people carelessly and thoughtlessly discard trash in public places for others to pick up — such as Parnell Beach along pristine Porter Creek north of Horseshoe Bend.
While the rest of the Simkins family patrols the shoulders of Idaho 55 to remove litter as part of the transportation department’s Adopt-A-Highway program, the youngsters engage in their own cleanup of the day-use park.
Zoe was especially disturbed during an outing this spring to discover how many cigarette butts accumulated at the beach. She diligently picked up the butts using a gripper tool and finished with a full coffee can.
“…don’t people realize this can kill the birds? But we did a good thing, didn’t we?” she asked her grandmother Karen Simkins who organized family members in adopting two miles of Idaho 55 (mileposts 67-69).
Zoe watched birds flying overhead and added, “we should do this, because it makes us caretakers of the earth.”
“They have a deep appreciation for the environment, which is also a family priority,” explains Karen. “Their parents instilled that appreciation in them.”
The young “caretakers” attracted the attention of Althea Fackrell, maintenance office manager for ITD’s District 3. Fackrell, who coordinates the district’s Adopt-A-Highway program, relayed the information to statewide coordinator Sherie Sweaney, who decided the Lowell Elementary School students deserved special recognition.
The girls, along with grandparents Karen and Clint Simkins, father Steve, and other family members will participate in a special ceremony during the Idaho Transportation Board’s June meeting next week in Boise.
“Zoe and Maya are such good examples of what it means to be ‘caretakers’ of the environment they deserve special recognition,” Sweaney said. “We are honored to be able to present them with certificates of appreciation for making the picnic area at Parnell Beach safer for wildlife. We also want to present Zoe with a certificate for being a ‘caretaker of the earth.’ ”
The Simkins family began cleaning the two-mile highway segment in honor of Barbara, daughter of Karen and Clint, who lost a battle with leukemia about 10 years ago. The cleanup also is in memory of Barbara’s friend Jan Kelly, who was killed by a drunk driver while riding a bicycle.
ITD Board member Monte McClure, representing District 3, will present certificates to the young caretakers of nature at about 10 a.m. Tuesday during the second day of a three-day meeting at the district office on Chinden Boulevard.