TxDoT looking for more volunteers to clean up roads

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Apr. 11, 2007 - Needed: As many pairs of willing hands as possible to help keep Hopkins County litter-free; must be able to walk, bend and grab.

Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

The Boys & Girls Club of Hopkins County is one of the many groups which have "adopted a highway" throughout the area in an effort to help keep the roads looking sharp.

Texas Department of Transportation is hoping that local citizens will go the extra mile on Saturday to help remove litter from state roads during the annual "Don't Mess With Texas Trash-Off."

The annual event, co-sponsored by TxDOT and Keep Texas Beautiful (the grassroots arm of the Don't Mess With Texas campaign),  is the largest one-day state-wide cleanup event in Texas and one of the largest in the country. 

Locally, some of the members of the Adopt-a-Highway program, such as Hopkins County Law Enforcement Association and 4-H Club will be participating in the Trash-Off, but more volunteers are needed both for the annual trash off and to help out TxDOT crews by becoming an Adopt-a-Highway participant.

"We want to take this opportunity to put out the call for more Texans to join the Adopt-a-Highway program," said TxDOT Travel Division Director Doris Howdeshell. "Texas is home to the first adopted highway in the world, but our enrollment numbers have been dropping slightly in recent years."

Statewide, the number of Adopt-a-Highway program has dwindled in recent years from 4,000 to 3,700.

Hopkins County has 23 roads which are available for adoptions, and the active roster shows 19 groups through February had adopted at least one two-mile stretch of roadway for a two-year period. Since then, however, at least seven of the 19 have let their contracts expire, with at least half of that number indicating they don't anticipate further participation, according to Billy Williams, maintenance section supervisor for Hopkins County Maintenance section of Paris District of TxDoT.

Some program participants are faithful volunteers, like Teen Challenge, Our Savior Lutheran Church, Beta Club, , and Catacon Inc. Others, while agreeing to sponsor a highway, have yet to fulfill their agreement of  picking up litter at least four times a year (once each quarter).

Roads available include FM 275; FM 1567 between State Highway 19 and Miller Grove; State Highway 11 west from Gafford Chapel to White Oak Bottoms; two miles north of Interstate 30 on FM 69 north; several areas on SH 11 east and west; and SH 19 and SH 154. Should an adopted area fall within a construction zone, the adoptees won't be required to clean up along those stretches during construction as to do could be dangerous. They generally are relocated to nearby roads for cleanup until construction is complete, Williams said.

Supplies and materials needed to clean up the roadways will be provided during regular business hours at the local TxDoT office, including traffic control devices and safety vests.

Those participating are asked to make sure at least one adult is available to provide adequate supervision of the group adopting the stretch of roadway includes members less than 15 years of age. They must hold at least two safety meetings each year, and participation in each meeting is required prior to participation in the clean-up activities. Fold-down traffic control signs are to be used to alert motorists to watch for group members. First aid kits and adequate drinking water must be readily available during clean-ups.

Anyone interested in volunteering in Hopkins County for the Trash-Off or having their group, club, church, business or organization become an Adopt-a-Highway program participant, contact Billy Williams at 903-885-4031 or stop by the Sulphur Springs TxDOT office, 1100 Hillcrest Drive for an application or more information.

More information about the Trash-Off and Don't Mess with Texas may be obtained online at www.DontMesWithTexas.org and about TxDOT at www.dot.state.tx.us

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