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Islanders keep roads clean

On a recent Friday afternoon, staff from Naval Pacific Meteorlogical Oceanographic Facility at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station took a break from their work to go outside. Instead of taking time to smell the roses, they were volunteering to remove trash from the sides of Island County roadways.

About 16 people broke up into several teams to pick up trash along a three-mile stretch of Highway 20 at San de Fuca, an effort made possible through participating in the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Adopt-A-Highway Program.

“It’s just our way of giving back to the community,” said Mike Sierchio, senior meteorologist at the facility.

The teams took about two-and-a-half hours to remove trash from ditches. They left filled trash bags alongside the roadway for state Dept. of Transportation crews to pick up.

In addition to the typical empty cups and wrappers that tend to get strewn along the roadways, one team ended up removing a spilled bag of pulltabs.

“There must have been 10,000 of them,” Sierchio said. “We just picked them up and picked them up.”

After the teams finished, it was off to a nearby park for some burgers and to unwind at the end of the work week, Sierchio said.

He added that the facility has been participating in the program for more than three years and the staff goes to pick up trash about once a quarter depending on the weather.

There are two options for groups who want to participate in the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Adopt-a-Highway Program — either as a volunteer group or through sponsoring a private contract.

Volunteers have to be at least 15 years old and agree to take care of an agreed-upon section of road for two years. The length of roadside varies depending on the size of the highway and the anticipated amount of litter.

The DOT provides safety equipment, materials and disposal of the rubbish.

Volunteers not wanting to pick up litter along a busy state highway have another route.

Island County conducts its own Adopt-a-Road program on area roads and its program is similar to the state’s.

Volunteers in the Island County program are required to pick up litter three times a year and agree to a two-year contract.

The county provides the litter teams with signs, materials and safety gear. The teams have to take the litter to the county’s solid waste facility where is will be accepted at no charge.

“It’s been great. There’s been tons of litter that would normally be there,” said Joseph Araucto, traffic engineer for Island County.

Currently there are 27 active groups picking up trash alongside county roads with two more waiting for approval.

Araucto said the greatest need is for groups to volunteer to clean smaller neighborhood roads and that groups have adopted most of the stretches of major roads such as Goldie Road and Ault Field Road on North Whidbey, and Saratoga and Langley roads on South Whidbey.

He added that the program also helps develop a sense of pride in the community.

Since the Island County program began in 1995, no one has been injured during clean ups.

“We’re been fortunate with people taking responsibility for their own well being,” Araucto said.

For information on the Island County Adopt-a-Road Litter Control Program call 679-7331.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at nwhalen@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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