Cleanup nets everything from trash to cash

Deborah Prescott | Daily Press Members of Scout Troop 411 of Escanaba pick up trash on the roadside while vehicles drive by as part of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Adopt-A-Highway program. Items found among the trash in the past include toolboxes, tools, shoes and money.

ESCANABA — Scout Troop 411 of Escanaba participated in the Michigan Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) Adopt-A-Highway program recently. For 20 years, Troop 411 has sponsored a three mile stretch of US 2 and 41 between White’s Grocery Store and the Ford River bridge.

Stacy Bingham, one of Troop 411’s leaders, led the Scouts on the first pickup day. The Scouts broke into four crews and collected trash from each side of the highway. Various small and large items can be found in ditches off highways after snow thaws in the spring.

“We’ve found toolboxes full of tools, lots of fast food stuff,” said Bingham. “Shoes … we’ve got a golf course up the road. I think people leave shoes on golf carts when they leave and the shoes fall off down the road. There are a lot of dead animals. We tell them (Scouts) not to play with the dead animals.”

MDOT started the Adopt-A-Highway program in 1990 as a way to keep the state roadsides clean and attractive. Businesses and organizations sponsor or adopt a section of highway for at least two years. Most segments are approximately two miles long. The sponsor is requested to clean the roadsides three times a year. After a segment of highway is adopted, an Adopt-A-Highway sign is posted along the stretch of highway with the sponsor’s name on it. Many groups across the Upper Peninsula took advantage of the nice weather on the first weekend of the scheduled dates of May 4 to 12.

Most trash on the roadsides of Lower Michigan was picked up earlier in April. Cleanup of the U.P. and Northern Lower Peninsula roadsides was delayed a couple weeks due to winter’s late exit. According to MDOT Superior Region Communications Representative Dan Weingarten, volunteers collect 60,000 to 70,000 bags of trash annually. Summer pickup will be from July 13 to 21 and fall pickup will be from Sept. 21 to 29.

Safety of all volunteers is very important. MDOT provides the Scouts and leaders with safety vests to wear before walking along the roadside. In addition to the safety vests, MDOT requires each crew to have at least three people and members must be at least 12 years old.

Before the Scouts started picking up trash from the roadsides, Bingham explained some rules.

“Do not touch dead animals. Do not touch anything that looks like it might be a meth component,” said Bingham.

If a Scout comes across any drug paraphernalia, they are told to leave it alone and leaders will report it to police.

Jessie Pepin started in Cub Pack 411 when he was five years old. In the fifth grade, he crossed over to Troop 411.

“I’ve been here ever since I joined … same spot, basically same route,” said Pepin. “I found $200 once and I got to keep it too.”

According to Bingham, cleaning the roadside on the three mile segment of highway usually takes two hours.

“With the amount of Scouts we have here today, we’ll be done less than two hours,” said Bingham. “We’ve been doing this section for 20 years, it’s a nice program. Usually we do it on Mondays, during our regular troop meeting, but we have lots of things coming up so we did it this Saturday so we don’t take away from the other stuff we’re doing in the troop.”

Austin Kleiman moved from another troop into Troop 411 three or four years ago and was hoping to find something special along the roadside Saturday.

“I haven’t seen anything strange, it’s only my second time doing this,” said Kleiman.

To participate in MDOT’s Adopt-A-Highway program go to www.Michigan.gov/Adoptahighway. There are segments available and it’s free to participate.

Scout Troop 411 meet Monday evenings at Immanuel Lutheran Church. Youth ages 11 to 17 can participate.