Oak Harbor streets are up for adoption

Eileen Ryan and Norvin Stanley adopted two streets and pledged to clean up litter there. “Oak Harbor is never going to become anything unless people care. We care,” Ryan said.  - --
Eileen Ryan and Norvin Stanley adopted two streets and pledged to clean up litter there. “Oak Harbor is never going to become anything unless people care. We care,” Ryan said.
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The city of Oak Harbor revived its Adopt-A-Street Program with 25 designated streets within city limits. Picking up litter along the road isn’t what some people think of as a good time. If people show interest it is usually for a one time event like Earth Day or clean up the fireworks after July 4. Still, I was hoping I could generate some interest while staffing the city information table at the Oak Harbor Public Market.

After noticing my display, a man approached me to offer his volunteer services. He came in the next week to sign the papers and get started. He’s not with a club, business group or church. He doesn’t need to earn community service hours. He and his wife do this out of the goodness of their hearts and they’ve been doing it for years near Dugualla Bay as part of the State Adopt-A-Highway Program.

Norvin Stanley and his wife Eileen Ryan are the best kind of volunteers to sign up for a new program like this. They came with experience, made helpful suggestions and best of all they’re undaunted by the paperwork needed to get started. We have registration forms, safety information, release and consent forms — the stack could be intimidating. But Stanley and Ryan sailed through the forms, anxious to begin. They “adopted” two streets and even asked to extend one of them.

Stanley and Ryan are active. They walk regularly and stay in shape. At a walking pace they couldn’t help but notice the unsightly litter, especially on the designated streets in the program. They chose to adopt streets close to home. Stanley recently retired so has more time to give to the program. As the first to actually go out and do a street clean up, they won two donated tickets to the Whidbey Playhouse production of “Murder at the Howard Johnsons.”

Much like the state program, the city program asks for a two-year commitment of cleaning up designated streets at least four times a year. These veterans didn’t hesitate. The city provides Adopt-A-Street kits for check-out before the clean-up. The kit includes caution signs, gloves, hats, bright vests, litter grabbing sticks and bags. Safety is the highest priority and participants are asked to watch a safety video online before they start. If teams find hazardous materials or items too heavy to move, they can report the location of such items to the solid waste crew for pick up. After the clean-up, the bags will be collected by the city crew and disposed of properly. Participants must be at least 15 years old and have adequate adult supervision.

I met Ryan and Stanley on their first day at work picking up litter on Barrington Drive behind Walmart. They had no trouble filling six garbage bags and dragged a half sheet of plywood and some two by fours out of the tall grass. They want to request that businesses like Wallmart, Safeway or the fast food restaurants in town keep litter picked up in their own parking lots. That way less would blow out onto the street.

I asked if they had any advice for others considering “adoption.”

“You don’t need a group. It doesn’t take much time,” Stanley said.

Ryan added, “Just do it.”

As she was picking up other people’s litter, Ryan said she thinks about what she’d say if she could speak to them directly. “I know where you live. I know what you eat and what you drink. I know what kind of car you drive and what you’re teaching your kids.”

When asked what motivates them, “It doesn’t pay much,” Stanley said with a grin, then added, “Civic pride.”

Ryan agreed. “Oak Harbor is never going to become anything unless people care. We care.”

More information is available at under “links” or call 279-4762.


Maribeth Crandell is Oak Harbor’s environmental educator.


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