Bus drivers, ski patrol members honored
for picking up what others leave behind on highways
The driver’s seat of a school bus provides a good view of the highway, and sometimes the view isn’t pretty. Roadside litter, left by careless or uncaring motorists, became a sore spot for Bear Lake School District 33 bus drivers Judy Smith and Carole Hymas.
So they decided to do something about it. They adopted a two-mile section of U.S. 89 in southeast Idaho as their home on the road. And at least twice a year, they engage in a thorough housecleaning.
The bus drivers, along with members of the Pebble Creek Ski Patrol, shared the spotlight Thursday as Adopt-A-Highway Groups of the year in southeast Idaho’s District 5. For their commitment to keep roadsides clean, representatives of both groups received a plaque and clock fashioned from a sample Idaho license plate.
Presentations were made during the Idaho Transportation Board’s monthly meeting, held at the District 5 office in Pocatello.
Smith and Hymas have been driving school buses a quarter-century, logging about 200 miles a day. After noticing the refuse left behind on the sides of U.S. 89 near Bloomington, they took it upon themselves to clean up a section. Not only would it improve aesthetics, cleanups also could provide a good opportunity for exercise, they reasoned.
After a couple of informal cleanups, they committed to participate in the Idaho Transportation Department’s Adopt-A-Highway program by cleaning U.S. 89 between mileposts 11 and 13. Since volunteering in March 2004, they have cleaned the highway eight times and removed about 5,000 pounds of litter, roughly the equivalent weight of students they can pack in a 40-seat bus.
“Judy and Carole take great pride in their adopted highway section,” explains Sharon Short, who coordinates the Adopt-A-Highway program for District 5. “They make extra efforts to remove trash during light winters. Two years ago, they picked up litter on December 28; three days later a big snowstorm left five feet of snow on their adopted spot.”
Their section of highway is strategically located between two country stores where motorists stock up on snacks and drinks. The most common trash (estimated to be about 90 percent) along the highway is related to alcohol beverages.
Members of the Pebble Creek Ski Patrol, who have been serving the skiing and snowboarding public for more than 50 years, decided to extend its patrols to Idaho’s highways in about 1990.
Family members and friends join ski patrol members in cleaning Interstate 15 between mileposts 59 and 61 two or three times annually.
Some patrollers and friends have discovered, in addition to the normal garbage, cash along the interstate. The largest monetary reward was a $50 bill, leaders report. Records indicate the group’s 29 cleanup campaigns have removed approximately 35,000 pounds of litter from the I-15 shoulders.
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.
Approximately 1,100 groups spent nearly 57,000-person hours statewide removing litter in 2008, collecting an estimated 1.9 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 Sherie Sweaney, statewide AAH coordinator.
The estimated value of the cleanup labor is equivalent to more than $730,000, savings that can be applied to other projects, improving highway safety and driving conditions.
For more information about adopting a stretch of highway, contact Sweaney at (800) 443-2878.