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Keeping the Nature Coast Beautiful

By Diane Bedard Posted on January 30, 2020

Have you ever been driving along, listening to your favorite song in pure joy and then had the mood crashed by trash? Litter is a serious problem along roadways, in parks and forests and throughout the waterways of our Nature Coast environment.

Since it isn’t practical to stomp on the brakes and risk life and limb to clean up someone else’s mess, what can a concerned citizen do to help stem the tide of waste and keep our world clean?

Adopt-A-Highway Program provides a Solution

The Adopt A Highway Program gives local citizens an opportunity to help keep roads and highways clean and attractive throughout the county.

Recently I talked with Alice Mary Herndon about how she and her husband pitch in. “We are part of the Adopt a Road program through Hernando County. It’s easy. Just contact Clay Black,” she told me.

History of the Adopt-A-Highway Program

The Adopt-A-Road program is the local arm of Adopt-a-Highway.

The program began as a local initiative in Tyler, Texas when James R. “Bobby” Evans, District Engineer, noticed litter flying out of the back of a pickup truck. In 1984, he worked with Billy Black, The Texas Department of Transportation Tyler District’s Public Information Officer to create the private-public partnership of the Adopt-a-Highway program.

The Adopt-A-Highway program was started because “Bobby” Evans saw litter flying out of the back of a pickup truck. Image courtesy of Pixabay.

The Tyler Civitan Club was the first organization to volunteer, adopting a 2 mile stretch of Highway 69.[1]

Today Adopt-a-Highway is a grassroots movement involving nearly 90,000 groups in 49 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan. Florida is one of the states and each County in our area participates.1

What is Adopt-A-Road and Adopt-A-Highway?

Locally, these programs are more commonly known as Adopt-A-Road and Adopt-A-Highway and are administered by each individual County. The requirements are the same, no matter the location.

The Avenue of the Oaks in Floral City shows the value of keeping up the roads. Image by Diane Bedard.

How to Adopt-A-Road in the Nature Coast

To Adopt a Road, an organization must commit to removing litter from each side of a county-maintained roadway for a 1- or 2-mile stretch a minimum of four times a year for two consecutive years. There is no cost to the organization and a sign is erected at each end of the adopted area recognizing the organization.

There is no definition of what that organization must look like. It can be as small as a couple or as large as the Kiwanis.

There needs to be a point person between the volunteer organization and the County. That person needs to take safety training and take care of supplies and forms for the organization and the County. They are also responsible to train the volunteers to work safely, file reports for each collection, and ensure trash is picked up from the adopted location.

Gather your crew and sign up with the County your favorite road is in. Each County provides bright vests, gloves, trash bags, and signs. Image courtesy of Mass Transit Flicker.

Each County provides bright orange vests, gloves, and trash bags, as well as signs for each group. They also provide Workers Compensation insurance for participants.

There are some commonsense things that groups must agree to, such as only collecting during daylight hours, wearing safety vests and close-toed shoes while working on litter collection.

It is simple and requires only a time commitment, so we took the time to learn about adopting a Nature Coast road in the hopes that some of our readers might step forward and adopt.

Hernando County was the second county in Florida to participate in the Adopt-A-Road program. Image by Diane Bedard.

Hernando County Adopt-A-Road

NatureCoaster spoke with Clay Black, Hernando County’s Public Works Department manager about the Adopt-A-Road Program.

Hernando County joined the Adopt-A-Highway program in the early 1990s, originally proposing that groups adopt a minimum of two miles of roadway in the 1990s, but flexed to a 1 mile minimum because it was too much for some organizations to take care of a 2-mile stretch, especially in the summer.

“We provide training safety training, safety vests, signs at both ends of the adopted roadway identifying the adopting organization, trash bags and pick up the trash from the site after cleanup,” Clay explained.

“When they pick up garbage the first time, it is common to get 10-15 bags, so the coordinator will have the volunteers stack the bags at the sign location and call me. I send a crew out to pick it up. After the first time, volunteers usually have only a bag or two, so they often just take it home and put it out with their normal garbage collection,” he continued.

The Latin American Civic and Cultural Association has been continuously picking up trash as part of the Adopt-A-Road program since 1991. Image courtesy of Hernando County Public Works Adopt-A-Road program.

Hernando County was the second county in Florida to have an Adopt-A-road program, with about a hundred organizations that maintain an adopted roadway today. In fact, the Latin American Civic and Cultural Association has adopted Spring Hill Drive from US 41 to the Airport since 1991. It is the longest-running group in Hernando County’s Adopt-A-Road program.

“The benefit to Hernando County is significant. Litter is a health hazard, with mosquitos being a problem in tires, bottles and cans that collect moisture. A Keep America Beautiful study showed that property values are 7-10 % less in a littered area. Hernando County spends about $200/year for each mile of road maintenance, so each mile volunteered saves the County monies that can put elsewhere and raises our property values,” Clay shared with us.

To explore the opportunity for you or your organization to Adopt-A-Road in Hernando County, please contact Clay Black by email or call 352-754-4060

Friends of NRA group pose with their bounty from a 2-mile cleanup along Lecanto Highway. Image courtesy of Citrus Friends of NRA.

Citrus County Adopt-A-Highway

Citrus County requires a minimum of two miles of roadway with regular cleanups for the Adopt-A-Highway program (at least four times a year for two years). Any organization may adopt a section of road. It is suggested that a group should meet and select a coordinator as the liaison for the organization’s participation.

The program is administered and managed by the Solid Waste Management Division of the County and the website for more information is here. You can contact Henry Norris at Citrus County Solid Waste Management by calling (352) 527-7670 or e-mail your request for Adopt-A-Highway information.

Using a “picker” can make it easier to get all the trash in your adopted area.

Pasco County Adopt-A-Road

Keep Pasco Beautiful manages the Adopt-a-Road program in cooperation with Pasco County. Groups must clean up a minimum of 1 mile of road and agree to remove litter at a minimum of four times per year for at least two years. The roads must be County maintained and of an arterial or collector nature.

To see if your chosen road qualifies for Adopt-A-Road through Keep Pasco Beautiful, please contact Kristen King via email or call her at 727-856-7252.

To apply for your chosen road adoption, please fill out the form here and forward it to Pasco County Utilities Solid Waste Department, Recycling and Education Section, in Spring Hill.

After your group’s first cleanup of your adopted road, Pasco County Traffic Operations Division will order the sign with your group’s name and place it at each end of your designated road section.

Things to remember if you choose to Adopt-A-Road or Highway

This is a two-year commitment to clean a mile or more of road easements at least four times per year. It is A LOT easier with a group… in fact, it can be a social time as well as a public service.

It is a good idea to wear sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses, and close-toed shoes when you go out to pick up litter.

Gloves and safety vests are necessary. Perhaps you want a pickup stick, so you don’t have to bend over so often. They are available at retailers and can be made by hammering a nail through the end of a cane-length stick.

Pasco provides blue trash bags for recyclables. Your group may want to assign one or two people to recyclables to keep things orderly.

Maybe plan to go out early and then eat together after the bags are filled. The camaraderie of helping to maintain your piece of the Nature Coast is always best celebrated over food. This helps ensure your volunteers will be here for the next cleanup.

Also, if you are a snowbird and want to participate, our Nature Coast Counties want to find ways to work with your schedule. As Mr. Black from Hernando County said, “It helps us all when a group commits to keeping our roadways beautiful.” Give him or Kristin or Henry a call and let’s work together!


[1] Source: Adopt-a-Highway – History from the Texas Department of Transportation. https://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/get-involved/volunteer/adopt-a-highway/history.html

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