Two groups honored for District 5 cleanups
Sections of state highway in southeast Idaho are cleaner today because of two strikingly different groups, one large and one small.
Wednesday the Idaho Transportation Board honored the Bannock County Sheriff’s Inmate Labor Detail and the two-person team of Tony and Jeanne Varilone as Adopt-A-Highway groups of the year for District 5.
If many hands make work light, cleanup activities should be a breeze on Idaho 40 near Downey and along U.S. 91 north and south of Downey. A work force of five to 20 county inmates usually is dispatched to state highway cleanups, explains Tad Bybee, program supervisor.
They work seven days a week from about 7:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. with time off at mid-day for a sack lunch. Although most of their efforts are on Bannock County roads, the inmate program also adopted a two-mile section of Idaho 40 in 2006. When time and workloads permit, they also cover part of U.S. 91 and part of Interstate 15 and connecting on- and off-ramps.
“Aside from the ‘normal;’ or expected roadside litter, we have removed drug paraphernalia, tires, tree limbs, concrete, gas containers, dead animals, old fences and posts, firearms, appliances, automotive parts and bottles of human waste,” Bybee explains.
The Varilones joined the Adopt-A-highway program five years ago, committing to clean a two-mile segment of Idaho 34. Since September 2003, the pair conducted 14 cleanups and collectively removed 3,360 pounds of discarded litter.
Their only monetary reward for cleaning the highway was the discovery of a $20 bill along the highway shoulders, Tony said in response to a question from Idaho Transportation Board Chairman Darrell Manning.
What have they learned from their outings?
The route is traveled most by local motorists, Tony explained. Consequently, much of the litter tends to be locally generated. But there also seems to be a greater awareness by local motorists of the need to keep the highways clean.
Both groups received framed certificates and clocks fashioned from sample Idaho license plates to recognize their efforts. Board member Neil Miller, who represents District 5, presided over the ceremony.
ITD’s statewide 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.
More than 1,000 groups spent approximately 47,000-person hours statewide removing litter in 2007, collecting an estimated 1.4 million pounds of litter from Idaho’s roadsides. About half of Idaho’s 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.
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.