Summer is here, and everything along the roadways is growing — the vegetation, the number of people using our local streets and our highways, and the accumulation of needless trash.
There are clubs, businesses, families, neighbors and individuals who help keep this problem under control, but all of us need to do our part as well.
Those who consciously litter our roads is a very small percentage of motorists. It is the “incidental” litterbugs that create most of the problems.
How many of you stop for fast food or a beverage, down it quickly on a short meal break, and then toss the bag or cup into the back of your truck? Anything in your truck bed is likely to blow out once you are in motion. Have you ever headed to the dump with a load that is not properly covered? It is amazing (and discouraging) to see what blows out and accumulates on Trujillo Road. Often people do not even realize that they are contributing to roadside clutter. Has your child ever tossed something from your moving vehicle? These times are probably familiar to many of us. I remember the time our own three-year-old (now 30-something) tossed one shoe out of his window between Denver and Colorado Springs. That little incident not only resulted in a quick unplanned stop for new shoes, but also provided a great “teachable moment” to talk about not littering our highways.
What can you do to help? The most obvious thing is to become more aware of your habits. Additionally, you can take an hour or two, two to four times a year, to “adopt” a stretch of road (both sides) as your personal contribution to the beautification of Archuleta County. It’s easy get started, doesn’t take much time, and can be fun and rewarding for a group, or for individuals.
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) sponsors the “Spruce up Colorado” program for our state roads. Their purple designation signs near mile markers along the highway recognize those who are “caring for” both sides of that area.
The Durango CDOT office manages the assignments for U.S. 84, U.S. 160, and Colo. 151. One- or two-mile stretches of these highways are available for adoption. The contact person at CDOT is Karen. She can be reached at 385-8360. Good information, an adoption request form, and a brief video can also be found on the CDOT Web site, www.dot.state.co.us. Click on “news and information,” then “Adopt-a-Highway.” CDOT provides heavy duty trash bags and safety vests for your use.
Who are some of the local groups that are already doing clean-up through CDOT?
One crew that is among the longest in existence here is the San Juan Outdoor Club. This group, led by its own “Queen of Trash,” Jean Carson, has been on the job for more than 10 years. There are usually as many as 20 people who show up for the work sessions. A couple of years ago, this group won the state award for having the largest group turnout for a single clean-up event — 43 individuals. They clean early in the morning, before it gets hot. They do their clean-up, leave the bags for CDOT to pick up, and are enjoying coffee, snacks, and good conversation about the crazy things they found, all before 10 a.m. Two members have reported finding $5 bills (which may or may not have gone into the club’s coffers), and other “treasures” have included various articles of clothing, an occasional hubcap, other car parts, and way too many empty bottles, not to mention all the paper trash. They clean the busy two-mile stretch of U.S. 160 from roughly the Silverado Center west to Rotary Park.
The Humane Society Dog Walkers take over at Rotary Park and go west for two miles. Carolyn Ullrich organizes these folks, and they would be glad for more assistance. You can call the Humane Society Administration Office (264-5549) to sign up. The group also has some stories to tell about what they have found over the years. When they find wearable clothing or other items that are in good condition, items are washed and donated to the Humane Society Thrift Store.
Moving west, the highway is cleaned by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Aspen Springs Homeowners Association.
A few miles west of Colo. 151 on U.S. 160 you will see the purple volunteer sign for John Rieck. His widow, Diane, takes care of this part of the highway in his memory. Their grandson also loves to help when he comes to visit, and a group of friends are ready to join her in her efforts.
Purple signs identifying volunteer clean-up groups are visible on portions of U.S. 84 and Colo. 151 as well. There are existing signs that say “available.” These stretches, and others, are waiting to be adopted.
If you’d like to adopt a street in the Pagosa Lakes subdivisions, call Larry Lynch at 731-5635, Ext. 4. Larry will be glad to get you started and to provide you with trash bags. This local program has existed for about seven years, and offers numerous options. You can adopt an entire street, or a section of a street, and can pick up trash as often as you like. This is a great opportunity for all the dog walkers, joggers, and families out for walks. Many street miles are available in this area, and while these streets may not be as heavily littered as the highways, items still blow around — especially on “trash days.” Local appreciation signs are posted there as well. If you are one of those individuals who prefer to remain anonymous, that is OK too.
The local/county contact for Archuleta County roads is Chris Tanner at the Solid Waste Department at Road and Bridge. He can be reached at 264-5660, Ext. 2 between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. The county acknowledgment signs are blue, are also usually at mile markers, and give written credit to the people who take the time to keep that area picked up. The street you live on may be one that is on the “available” list for regular clean-up. Along Piedra Road (County Road 600) clean-up groups include the staff from PLPOA and the Pagosa Women’s Club. The ladies from the Women’s Club say they have lost count of the number of golf balls they have picked up on either side of their stretch of the road. They sometimes enjoy meeting for lunch after a work session.
If you don’t like to be tied to a schedule or to make a long-term commitment, that is no problem. Are you a walker? Are you out for exercise? Do you walk your dog? It isn’t difficult to carry a plastic trash bag (and maybe a glove if you are afraid of what you might find) and do some beneficial knee-bends while picking up dollar bills, fast food trash, bottles or whatever. There are individuals who have regularly “worked their neighborhoods” for years. They do not have to be part of an official group. For example, I have seen Cindy Gustafson driving slowly along a two mile section of roads near her home while husband Ron jumps out of the vehicle frequently to add trash to his plastic bag. Ron also helps the Outdoor Club, and both Ron and Cindy are part of the Aspen Springs Homeowners group. They haven’t found any discarded cash, but who knows what this summer might bring?
There are many of you out there who are doing your part in the clean-up efforts. I do not know who most of you are, but please know that a lot of people are very appreciative of what you do. More of us can also do our part, whether it be with a clean- up crew, while out for a walk, or while driving down the road. It is not fair that a small segment of the population depends on their neighbors’ efforts or on the tall green weeds to cover their recklessness. Kudos and a rousing ovation go out to all of you who already work so hard to keep our part of Colorado clean and beautiful!