Make an Earth Day gift — adopt a highway

Employees from Kohl’s Department Store volunteer their time and services on a two-mile stretch of road. (Submitted photos)

Employees from Kohl’s Department Store volunteer their time and services on a two-mile stretch of road. (Submitted photos)

DOVER — Although people across the world are making an extra effort to be kind to the environment on this Earth Day, some groups want to make sure the roadways are clean throughout the year through the Adopt-A-Highway program.

“I can confidently say that our program is better than any other state’s,” said Jim Westhoff, community relations officer at the Delaware Department of Transportation. “Our program is very effective and we are never at a shortage of volunteers.”

The Delaware Adopt-A-Highway program, celebrating its 25th anniversary this week, currently has 890 groups participating across the state — each responsible for at least two miles of road.

Each group is required to clean up their road at least three times a year and turn in activity reports after each time to track progress.

Adopt-A-Highway activity reports count the number of participants, hours spent cleaning the road and the amount of litter collected.

In 2011, volunteers in New Castle County broke the record for the most bags of trash collected, 1,971 in all, while Sussex County holds the record for the most cleanups, with 273 conducted in 2011.

Sussex County also has the record for most volunteers (1,676) and most time doing the cleanups, with a total of 740 hours being devoted to litter removal.

“It isn’t just about the trash that’s picked up,” Mr. Westhoff said. “It’s about making people more aware of keeping the roadways clean, whether they are a volunteer or someone just driving down the road seeing the volunteers in action.”

Almost anyone is eligible to adopt a highway, from families to school groups to businesses. The main requirements are a two-year commitment and three or more cleanups each year.

In addition to the three required annual cleanups, there is a statewide cleanup once each October to get every group involved simultaneously. On this day, tons of roadside debris are collected.

Every time a new group signs up, it is given a set of reflective vests to wear during cleanups, trash bags and an Adopt-A-Highway sign on either side of the road stating the organization’s name.

When groups clean up, they don’t have to take the trash bags to a dumpster, they can simply call DelDOT and let them know there has been a cleanup and the bags can be picked up next to the group’s Adopt-A-Highway sign.

Many items picked up from roadsides are recyclable and it is up to the group and its leaders to sort recyclables and trash.

Nearly all DelDOT-maintained roads are eligible for adoptions. The ones excluded are typically inner city streets or large, multi-lane highways like I-95.

Volunteers must be 13 years or older; those younger than 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

If your family or organization is interested in adopting a highway, call DelDOT at 760-2424 or visit www.deldot.gov/information/community_programs_and_services.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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