BYU-Idaho students trade instruments for litter bags

Musicians at Brigham Young University – Idaho, in Rexburg are committed to bringing harmony to a highway in District 6. Members of the student-run Band Council put their instruments aside and take up litter bags twice a year to remove roadside refuse near Beaver Dick Park.

A remnant of one outing serves as a constant reminder of their commitment to highway cleanups – and to their success against orchestra players in annual snow football games. Scores of winter football games are recorded on the side of a white-wall tire that band members removed the highway.

“We have not kept the other treasures we have found," said one of the cleanup organizers. “Identifying skulls and bones is always popular. After going a couple of times, some students realized that the wind puts more material on one side of the road than the other. They walk in small groups from either end and meet in the middle to be transported back to sunny Rexburg.”

They often assemble after cleanup outings for a photograph at the Adopt-A-Highway sign that identifies their cleanup segment near Beaver Dick Park.

Cleanup campaigns generally attract 20 to 30 student volunteers who use the outings as a way of getting to know each other better. Their reward, aside from camaraderie, comes in the form of pizza at Craigo’s.

BYU-Idaho students adopted a two-mile segment of Idaho 33, between mileposts 71 and 73, in 2001 and have maintained it the past nine years as part of a community service project. Their most recent outing was on July 10.

The Idaho Transportation Board and District 6 honored the college group as the District 6 Adopt-A-Highway Group of the Year last week during the board’s monthly meeting in Rigby. Representatives received a certificate and a clock fashioned from a sample Idaho license plate for their efforts.

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 60,500-person hours statewide removing litter in 2009, collecting an estimated 1.5 million pounds of litter from Idaho’s roadsides. More than half of Idaho’s highways have been adopted, leaving ample opportunities for other groups and individuals to become involved.

The volume of material collected 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.

Published 7-30-2010