Young girl, life-long friend share commitment
Cooper and John are separated by five decades, but they’re united by a bond of friendship and a common concern – keeping highways free of human discards. The two neighbors were honored Thursday as the Idaho Transportation Department’s Adopt-A-Highway “group” of the year for north-central Idaho’s District 2.
They were appropriately honored with a plaque, a clock fashioned from a sample Idaho license plate and a couple of hardy handshakes during the transportation board’s monthly business meeting in Lewiston. Board member Bruce Sweeney, Lewiston, presented the awards on behalf of the board and ITD.
The 7-year-old girl and her 63-year-old neighbor have been friends since her early childhood. When the section of road that passes in front of their homes became available for adoption under Idaho’s highway cleanup campaign, the two raised their hands and signed their names.
Cleaning the section of U.S. 12 between mileposts 48 and 50 near Orofino has become another way of spending time together for the pair.
“Our section is a beautiful one, along the Clearwater River, but cleaning the road is harder than we realized,” John reports. “Hiking up the bank and down to the river makes for lots of exercise. It takes about five hours to clean. Everyone is pooped out by the end of the day.”
The section includes three highway turnouts and a boat launch ramp, so the areas tend to attract more than their share of refuse.
Last year the partners picked up more than a half-ton (1,225 pounds) of trash along the two-mile stretch of highway.
In addition to the amount of trash being thrown out along the beautiful highway, Cooper also is concerned about the number of beer cans that accumulate near the roadway. “This tells us that there is too much drinking and driving going on,” they report.
About halfway through their cleanup crusades, the pair usually stops for lunch. Passing motorists show their appreciation for the two litter collectors by honking and waving. Occasionally the pair also recruits other members of the Allen and Thomas families to join the highway cleanups.
Cooper has found jewelry, golf balls, a Whiffle ball and, on occasion, loose change. She takes the jewelry home to share with her mother.
ITD’s statewide AdoptAHighway 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.
Volunteer efforts save the state more than a quarter-million dollars that can be applied to other projects, improving safety and driving conditions.
For more information about adopting a stretch of highway, contact Sweaney at (800) 443-2878.