After receiving complaints about an Adopt-A-Highway permittee, the Eagle reached out to John Eden at the Oregon Department of Transportation for some answers.
Eden looked into the situation, and ODOT will be rolling out some changes to improve the program in our district.
Previously in the district, which includes Malheur and most of Grant and Harney counties, Adopt-A-Highway volunteers have been allowed to remain in the program by picking up litter along their designated stretch of roadway twice per year. Eden said long winters and wet springs led to that number, when other areas of the state were required to do so more often.
However, as a result of a statewide effort to decrease trash along highways, all new and renewed Adopt-A-Highway permits in the district will require at least three litter pickup events per year. The pickups will be verified by the local maintenance office to ensure compliance.
The complaints received by the Eagle focused on John Day Taxi, which has a permit on Highway 26 just west of John Day, but Eden said the business operated by Richie Colbeth appeared to be in compliance with the program. Eden said John Day Taxi applied to be in the program in January 2017 and completed its first verified cleanup in April 2017. Colbeth said he and his crew picked up litter four times in 2017.
Going forward, Colbeth will be required to report the pickup operations to Eden directly, who will verify the work with the maintenance manager in John Day. The permit is set to expire in February 2019, and Eden said he will review the permit with the district manager at that time before a renewal is offered.
Eden also said some people may have misconceptions about the Adopt-A-Highway program and what it is intended to do.
“In all fairness to the John Day Taxi folks, I have learned that stretch of highway is a portion of the route taken by most to the local landfill, so part of the problem may be folks not covering or securing trash that is being hauled to the dump,” Eden said. “I would also reiterate that the Adopt-A-Highway program is not intended for the permittee to clean the roadside every time a piece of trash falls along the highway. It is intended to give folks an opportunity to help the community and the state by volunteering a few times a year to perform an organized cleanup.”
Eden visited John Day and inspected Adopt-A-Highway permit sites. He said he saw trash in John Day Taxi’s area but also in an area adopted by Community Corrections east of town.
“If there is a legitimate concern for the trash,” he said, “it is my humble opinion that the best results would come from pitching in to help pick up litter all over town or remind folks to cover their loads when going to the dump.”
Eden said there are a variety of opportunities for people who’d like to help. People can join one of the current Adopt-A-Highway groups or adopt their own section of highway.
Another program Eden said has worked in other communities is SOLVE, which started as a beach cleanup and has expanded into a volunteer operation in which people can create their own events: https://www.solveoregon.org/create-your-own-event. If everyone pitches in, a lot could be accomplished.
It sounds like progress is being made regarding Adopt-A-Highway and litter, and we hope to see it continue.