Adopt a Highway Volunteer Newsletter – Spring 2021

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Volunteer Newsletter – Spring 2021

gloves long pants
Volunteers are blooming across Arizona As the desert warms, Adopt a Highway volunteer activity is soaring statewide. Individuals are shedding the indoors to meet up with their groups and conduct litter collection events as we move into the second quarter of 2021.  A welcome sign after a nearly 50% reduction in volunteer participation last year due to precautions taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  While volunteer activity understandably decreased last year, littering did not. Public reports of littering and illegal dumping have overwhelmed my office in recent months. ADOT resources are maxed-out and Arizona motorists and visitors are upset. No one wants to see a discarded grocery bag clinging to a roadside Palo Verde or find a tossed diaper. It’s ugly and as Adopt a Highway ambassadors, I hope you will help us remedy this challenging situation. The simple act of bagging trash and discarding it in a receptacle at the next rest stop or destination is a big one. That includes cigarette butts—the number one littered item and rated difficult-to-pick-up by volunteers. Properly securing trailer and truck bed loads is another.   If you spot a litterer report them. ADOT educates the public through about laws and harmful effects of littering. When you report someone, we send a letter to the car’s owner letting them know that litter may have been seen thrown from their car. We remind them of the negative impact of the litter, and the cost to taxpayers of cleaning litter from highways. Additionally, we reinforce the financial penalties for littering, and the fact that littering can result in a $500 fine if they are spotted by law enforcement.  We appreciate volunteer group leaders who are scheduling cleanups by contacting their local Adopt a Highway representative at least one week prior to the clean-up date. The lead time prepares staff to have trash bags and safety vests on hand when needed.   ADOT continues to request that all volunteer group leaders and all volunteers respect guidelines for social distancing during cleanups. Keep groups as small as possible as recommended by the Arizona Department of Health Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Thank you for considering ADOT as an opportunity to unite and reduce litter along our highways. If you would like more information about the program, visit Adopt a Highway online. If you live in Phoenix and would like to help reduce litter in your neighborhood, visit My Beautiful Phoenix. Tucson area residents can check out Tucson Clean and Beautiful. The Maricopa Association of Governments also focuses on keeping roadways clean through its Don’t Trash Arizona campaign. Arizona, Keep It Grand! Mary Currie
Communications Program Manager
Adopt a Highway Programs Read on for volunteer- inspired stories and related program information. Report your litter. It’s a volunteer program requirement and easy to do. Every bag counts! Activity Report Enter the permit number, ‘click’ to continue (your permit number is located on the original permit document or you may contact your ADOT district office for assistance.) Submit your bag count and number of volunteer participants. ‘Click’ Submit (only once.) Done.
ADOT Kids Keep it Grand! By Mary Currie/ ADOT Communications Hey kids, last year tons of litter was removed from along Arizona’s highways. That’s huge! If you want to show support for keeping Arizona Grand, we have Adopt-a-Highway-themed activities and a word search! Download your own copy by clicking on the activity sheets. The Adopt a Highway Volunteer Program is an important program for Arizona. About 1,200 groups volunteer to pick up litter from along the state highways each year. Permits are needed to participate on an annual basis, and one-time pick-up permits are also available. Anyone 12 and older can participate. In fact, check out the story in this newsletter about what the Boy Scouts from Troop 616 accomplished in one day for a nearby community.  You can learn more about how easy it is to participate in the Adopt a Highway program on our website.
A bonus activity: ADOT Kids Maze Arizona, Keep It Grand!

More volunteer opportunities! The Arizona State Land Department welcomes volunteers for upcoming cleanup events on national forest and state trust land. Visit the event calendar here.
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Grandma doing what she can
For this volunteer, Adopt a Highway program has been an education By Mary Currie / ADOT Communications Kathleen Mendes thinks about beer bottles a lot. And furniture. And car parts. Those are just a sampling of things she has seen and helped remove from her section of US 180 in northeastern Arizona. Mendes became an Adopt a Highway volunteer back in October 2010, and has been cleaning between milepost 337 and 339 ever since. Back then there was a lot of litter that needed to be removed. Today it’s more maintenance than anything. The work is meaningful to her. She first moved to nearby Concho in 1999 and the area is home. She also feels an obligation to help leave a positive and respectful impression on the environment. When Mendes started cleaning her segment, it was an event to help instill as similar desire in others. People would come out to clean and she even made it into a scavener hunt for the kids. If the children were too young to help alongside the highway, they would be somewhere safe making crafts. Those kids are all grown now, but Mendes keeps cleaning her segment. She feels an obligation to do it and said she wishes everyone had a similar attitude. The only real investment is the time it takes to do it, Mendes said. Her main advice for others considering adopting a stretch of highway is to not look at it as drudgery, but as an adventure. For example, someone on the way to the dump lost a dresser. Mendes came upon it, the drawers lying nearby. She went to pick those up and found a rattlesnake underneath one. Before then she would have never thought about a rattlesnake being there since it was so near the road. It never occurred to her. She exercises greater caution now.  In her years of doing this, as she looks at those beer bottles, car parts, and broken furniture, it’s almost educational.  It’s also given her a lot more empathy for the people whose items she cleans up. It is not about discarded trash, but a million other stories that could have happened, she said. “There is a lot to be learned. Why do people throw items from their vehicle? What is the behavior that creates the issue?” Mendes said. If you’d like to join Mendes in keeping our state looking its best, visit to pick our your own stretch of highway.

Scouts do a good turn by cleaning up SR 87 for Day of Service By Jon Brodsky / ADOT Communications On a cool, November morning (by Arizona standards), a small group of scouts from Scottsdale gathered in a parking lot off State Route 87 in the Fountain Hills area. They wore yellow-and-orange vests, work gloves and face masks.  The task for these Boy Scouts from Troop 616 in Scottsdale? Safely cleaning up trash on the side of the highway through ADOT’s volunteer Adopt a Highway program.  “It’s pretty motivating,” said 15-year-old Pinnacle High School 10th grader Justin Hutchison, who worked to bend down his 6-foot-3-inch frame to pick up trash. “Especially with the pandemic going on it’s important we can get out and do projects, because that’s a big part of scouting.” The Nov. 14 cleanup was part of the Boy Scouts’ Grand Canyon Council’s Day of Service. The troop covered between mile markers 190 and 192 on the Beeline Highway, a stretch that starts the gateway to the Mogollon Rim. “We camp quite often as a troop in the Payson area at the two Boy Scout camps up there so we drive … 87 quite a bit,” said Scoutmaster David Hutchison (yes, Justin’s father!), who shepherded the troop through the cleanup along with the other adult scout leaders.   “We’re just trying to serve the community,” the scoutmaster added. “A lot of them think it’s really cool because they’ve never done it, but as scouts we try and instill in them the values of the Scout Law, and providing service and giving back to the community is a big part of that, so they’re all more than happy to do this.” The troop spread out, socially distanced along the stretch in small groups, filling two dozen bags of trash by the end of the morning.   You can be like Troop 616 and volunteer to Keep Arizona Grand. Adopt a Highway is limiting cleanups during the current public health situation to smaller groups, as recommended by the Arizona Department of Health Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If your organization is interested in participating in a cleanup and/or adopting a stretch of Arizona highway, visit the Adopt a Highway webpage.  Scoutmaster Hutchison summed up the lessons of the day of service by saying, “They’ll leave today with a lot of pride in what they’ve accomplished.” “I like the fact that we can help our city and our state and everything,” Scout Justin Hutchison said. “We’re big about helping the community.” Volunteer event stories. We want yours.

Below are a few questions to get you started. If you would like an opportunity to have your experience as a volunteer featured in a future release of the ADOT Blog and Adopt a Highway Newsletter send your story and photo(s) to Mary Currie, Why did you decide to Adopt a Highway? Can you tell me about how you came to that decision? Is this a memorial to a loved one? If so, what do you think your loved one would think about this? Is there anything you’d like to share about the person honored by the segment? How long have you had the adopted segment? Who/how many maintain that segment? What would you want others to know who might be considering adopting a highway? Can you share a photo/photos of the person who is honored or any photos from your cleanups?  

Marc PhilbrookWatch out for this Sasquatch along US 60 By Laurie Merrill / ADOT Communications This was a name that got us all wondering: Sasquatch. Sasquatch? Isn’t that another name for Bigfoot, the mythical hairy man-like ape creature said to exist in the Pacific Northwest? So when we heard that a highway mile had been named in reference to Bigfoot, we had to learn more. To start with, yes, we have a mile of US 60 named Sasquatch! It’s east of Show Low from milepost 347 to 348. Linda Philbrook and friends clean it twice a year as part of ADOT’s Adopt a Highway program. The official sign reads “Sasquatch Marc Philbrook, we love you.” The stretch is named after Linda’s husband, Marc Philbrook, who passed away in 2011. “He looked like Sasquatch,” Linda said. “He was a great big guy with a great big beard and big head of hair.” That’s him in the photo to the right, so you can judge the resemblance for yourself. The origin of nickname stretches back years, coming from a visit he made to White Mountain Radio, where Linda works. Marc walked in, and one of Linda’s colleagues took one look before saying, “Sasquatch.” The name stuck. The family even owned a business for a while called “Sasquatch Mobile Auto.”   Linda and her two children live in Vernon, about 10 miles away from Marc’s sign. Originally from southern California, the family of four relocated to Arizona in 2003 after Marc fell in love with the Show Low area. Linda said she got the idea to adopt a mile in her husband’s honor because she noticed the Adopt a Highway signs on her travels. “I decided, let’s see what’s available. I knew the mile I wanted. I wanted the sign at the top of the hill on US 60 at milepost 348. The view is unbelievable,” she said. “It’s a really gorgeous part of US 60. It’s got really pretty mountain purple flowers. I know he’d love it.” The Philbrooks aside, we in ADOT’s Communications Office may or may not be believers in the cryptid’s existence, after having our own Sasquatch “encounter.” That led to this headline-making photo we posted on Facebook in 2015. Captured by one of our rural cameras, the image depicted a wintry scene with snow on the highway shoulder – along with some unusual blurry black shapes, as is traditional for all Bigfoot photos. So we asked “We might have spotted a family of Sasquatches on SR 260 near Heber this afternoon. What do you think?” The post spread like wildfire and became a social media sensation. It was shared more than 4,800 times and generated nearly 2,000 comments. You can read more about it in a blog post we made at the time. As for Linda, she and a core group of friends, the “Sasquatch Seven,” honor Mark’s memory by regularly cleaning his mile. In between times, Linda likes to dress up her sign seasonally. Come Halloween, you might see ghosts and monsters on it, for St. Patrick’s day, green leprechauns and such, and so on for Christmas and the other holidays. “I decorate it and take care of it,” Linda said. “Everyone who drives by tells me they love it!” To learn more about the Adopt a Highway program, please click here.
The launch of increased litter reporting by 1,000 in 2019. Positive feedback continues to roll in from around the state thanking us for this public awareness tool. When you report someone for littering, we take it from there by sending a letter to the car’s registered owner letting them know that someone was seen littering from their car. We remind them of the negative impact of the litter, and the cost to taxpayers of cleaning litter from highways, and the fact that littering is illegal and can result in a $500 fine if they are spotted by law enforcement. Additionally, we provide a small litter bag for their car. Report littering at ,877.355.8837 or dial 5-1-1, option #2. Thank you for caring about roadside litter and helping us to Keep It Grand.

Check out the Adopt a Highway Interactive Map   Find a location waiting for a team adoption!   Adopt a Highway Interactive Map

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