Whether it’s adopt-a-road or adopt-a-highway, Key Peninsula volunteers are motivated by community pride and the desire to keep our scenic highways beautiful, environmentally safe and free of litter. Several local organizations and groups volunteer their time as part of the two programs.
Almost since Pierce County first created the Adopt-a-Road Litter Control Program in 1992, the Key Peninsula Lions Club has maintained a two-mile section of Key Peninsula Highway south of Olson Drive NW.
“During the first perhaps 15 years of the 24 years, the KP Lions assumed responsibility for cleanup of the stretch of KP Highway from Key Center to Volunteer Park, and we went about the task annually and wound it up with a club picnic at various sites,” said Hugh McMillan, membership chair. Since then, the group has occasionally received assistance from various correctional facilities.
Other volunteer groups that help keep Key Peninsula Highway and other county roads litter free include Delk family, Key Peninsula Business Association, Key Peninsula Lutheran Church, Key Peninsula Youth Council, Vohn and Diana Kleinsasser, Vohn & Diana, Longbranch Community Church and Longbranch Improvement Club. Groups that have adopted State Route 302 include Drive Through Feed, LDS Church-Key Center Ward, Ravensara, Rocky Bay Equine Veterinary, Victor Improvement Club and WSU Alumni.
“These folks take better care because it is literally their front yard,” said Bruce Wagner, road maintenance manager with the Pierce County Road Operations Division.
The county and state support the groups through loaned-out hardhats, vests and “Volunteer Litter Crew Ahead” signs. They also provide litter bags and bag pickup. Since 1992, volunteers have collected over 17,232 bags of litter (that’s over 4,308 tons) from county roadways. In addition to equipment and supplies, the county sends out a mini-DVD that outlines the program fully and provides safety information to all groups. The state also provides safety tips.
“Safety is the number one priority,” said Duke Stryker, Olympic Region Area 1 coordinator for the Washington State Department of Transportation Adopt-a-Highway Program. “If our volunteers can’t clean our roads safely, we won’t ask them to do it. We won’t put them in a place we wouldn’t put ourselves.”
Through partnering with the county and state to support litter control efforts, volunteers save money by reducing the amount of time paid road crews spend cleaning roadside litter. The programs also help remind people not to litter, reduce traffic hazards if litter were to blow into the view of drivers on the highway, and eliminate hazards to the environment.
The county and state programs operate essentially the same way. The first step is to form a group and designate a responsible person to be the leader. Application information, forms and agreements are available on the respective agency Websites. Both programs require all participants be at least 15 years old and for one adult to supervise each group of eight minors. Parental consent is required of participants under 18 years. Due to the risks associated with roadside cleanup, all participants are required to sign hold-harmless agreements.
“The risks, I think, are minimal,” said Key Peninsula Business Association President Jud Morris. “We are all wearing gloves of some nature. The problems are more for the environment, like plastic and cans that don’t biodegrade.”
Most highways require cleanup two to six times a year, depending on the highway and volume of anticipated litter. Assigned sections by the county are two miles long, while state sections include two to four miles of roadside. Both programs allow participants to choose their section, based on availability. More popular areas or sections have waiting lists.
Both programs require a two-year commitment in order to receive an official Adopt-a-Road/Adopt-a-Highway sign with the group’s name installed along the highway. The state also offers a sponsorship program that costs $300-$900 to have a WSDOT-approved contractor pickup and dispose of the litter on behalf of the sponsor, who is recognized on the signs.