Some people complain about roadside trash. Other people pick it up.We're partial to the second group. Providing solutions always strengthens a community more than stewing over the problem.
But let's not get too eager here. Trained and organized volunteers make roadside cleanup programs work. Wandering on one's own volition near roadways is dangerous, and illegal in some cases such as interstate highways. Individuals are encouraged to clean up neighborhoods, parks and schools, but when it comes to working near traffic, leave the task to those groups willing to "adopt" a stretch of road.
To that end, praise is due officials at the Clark County Public Works Department for launching its Adopt-A-Road program, identifying 13 two-mile stretches of roads around the county. This new effort will dovetail well with similar programs at the city and state levels.
The county's endeavor is especially welcome after steep cuts in cleanup patrols, reductions that were caused by the lingering economic crisis.
Volunteers interested in adopting a county road for cleanup must commit to two years of work and at least three cleanup projects each year. In addition to training, the county will provide supplies and equipment, including brightly colored safety vests for volunteers and warning signs to alert drivers. Signs recognizing the volunteers will be posted. For more information or to volunteer, visit http://www.clark.wa.gov/publicworks/roads/adopt.html or call Volunteer Coordinator Karen Llewellyn at 360-397-6118, ext. 1627. The website also provides a list of county roads that are up for adoption, including stretches along Northeast 20th Avenue, Northeast Padden Parkway and St. Johns Road.
At the state level, the Washington State Department of Transportation has operated a popular Adopt-A-Highway program for many years. More than 60 volunteer groups are enrolled in Clark and Cowlitz counties. Bill VanAntwerp does a great job organizing the WSDOT program, and he can be reached at 360-905-2131 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the city level, the contact for Vancouver's road-cleanup volunteer program is Hailey Heath, 360-487-8316. This program is especially valuable as the city has reduced its grounds maintenance staff by more than 50 percent due to budget restraints.
But the three programs described above are only parts of a large overall effort to clean our community. Each neighborhood association is actively involved in grass-roots efforts to improve the appearance of public areas. Your association is a great place to begin your volunteer work.
Each of the "adopt" programs conducts training to make sure the work is completed as safely as possible. For example, county rules specify that volunteers must not touch car batteries, petroleum products, heavy or unwieldy objects, dead animals, broken glass, needles "or any unidentified questionable objects."
Volunteers in the county's Adopt-A-Road program could also be approved for weeding, pruning and removing graffiti.
The worst recession in seven decades has impacted everyone in our community, also negatively affecting the appearance of public roads. But that should not be viewed as cause for complaints. To the contrary, it's a call to action. We're glad governments are welcoming volunteers, and we're grateful so many local residents are willing to enlist as solution providers.