Adopt-a-Highway programs began in Texas in 1984-1985. James R. “Bobby’ Evans, an engineer at the Texas Department of Transportation, noticed the need for cleaner highways when he saw debris blowing off a pickup truck on a Tyler highway. The Tyler Civitan Club became the first organization to “adopt a highway” (that is, to sponsor its cleanup) in 1985.
Wikipedia: Adopt a Highway
The Adopt-a-Highway program, also known as Sponsor-a-Highway (but see distinction below) is a promotional campaign undertaken by U.S. states, Provinces and Territories of Canada and national governments outside North America to encourage volunteers to keep a section of a highway free from litter. In exchange for regular litter removal an organization (such as Cub Scouts, or Knights of Columbus, for example) is allowed to have their name posted on a sign in the section of the highways they maintain.
The program originated in the 1980s when James Evans, an engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation, saw debris flying out of a pickup truck bed. Litter cleanup by the city was expensive, so Evans sought the help of local groups to sponsor the cleaning of sections of the highway. The efforts of Billy Black, a public information officer led to quarterly cleanup cycles, volunteer safety training, the issuing of reflective vests and equipment, and the posting of adopt-a-highway signs.
In 1985, the Tyler Civitan Club became the first group to volunteer, adopting two miles along State Highway 69 (since renumbered State Highway 112). The program proved to be very successful and has since spread to 49 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan.
Some states, such as Nevada, allow both Adopt-a-Highway and Sponsor-a-Highway programs. In both programs, an organization that contributes to the cleanup is allowed to post its name. However, while an “adopting” organization provides the volunteers who do the litter pickup, a “sponsoring” organization instead pays professional contractors to do the work. Because of safety concerns, the latter is more typical in highways with high traffic volumes.
It all started in the Lone Star State.
“Did you know the first highway ever adopted was right here in Texas?”
One day back in 1984, James R. “Bobby” Evans, an engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) Tyler District, was driving through Tyler when he observed debris blowing out of the bed of the pickup truck he was following.
Alarmed by the incident and concerned that the cost of picking up litter was increasing at an annual rate of 15 to 20 percent, Evans began appealing to local groups to “adopt” a section of highway. His initial challenge went unanswered.
Champion for the cause
It wasn’t long before Billy Black, Public Information Officer for TxDOT’s Tyler District, became involved in developing the Adopt-a-Highway program. Black was responsible not only for creating a quarterly cleanup cycle for adopting organizations, but also for implementing the initial concept, which included furnishing volunteer safety training, reflective vests and equipment — and for erecting the well-known Adopt-a-Highway roadside signs that recognize adopters.
The Tyler Civitan Club soon became the first group to volunteer, adopting a two-mile stretch of Highway 69.
The word spreads.
The rest, as they say, is history. Within months, more than 50 groups in the region — garden clubs and scouting groups among them — had joined the program, which would blanket Texas and quickly spread nationwide.
Signs recognizing the Tyler Civitans’ section of roadway (“First Adopt-a-Highway in the Nation”) were erected on March 9, 1985 — a day that has subsequently been named International Adopt-a-Highway Day.
Demonstrating the value of a successful public-private partnership, today Adopt-a-Highway is a grassroots movement involving nearly 90,000 groups in 49 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.
21 August 1985, Kerrville (TX) Mountain Sun, pg. 5, col. 5:
Litter prevention in the classroom and on school grounds can consists of poster/essay contests; clean campus grounds; skits/puppet shows, student surveys of high litter areas, adopt a park project, or adopt a Highway project.
19 March 1986, Levelland and Hockley County News-Press, “Highway department kicks off campaign,” pg. 7, cols. 2-3:
A statewide “Adopt-a-Highway” program, aimed at increasing community involvement in Texas’ antilitter campaign has been kicked off by the highway department.
Under the new program, civic organizations can adopt a section of highway, and are responsible for picking up the litter along that segment at least twice a year. The program wa conceived last year in the Tyler highway district and is apparently the first of its kind in the nation.
In 1984, the highway department was spending $20 million annually on the litter problem. In response to an appeal by highway commission chairman Bob Lanier, the Tyler district started an intensified campaign against litter. In early 1985, Billy Black, Public Affairs Officer for the district, conceived the idea of organizations adopting highways.
Thus far, some 90 groups have adopted sections of highway throughout the Tyler district. They range from the Tyler Civitan Club to the Tyler/Smith County Juvenile Detention Center. The Tyler district of the highway department includes Anderson, Cherokee, Gregg, Henderson, Rusk, Van Zandt, and Wood counties. The program has been a tremendous success in the Tyler area, and now the department wants to try it statewide.
Guidelines for initiating and managing Adopt-a-Highway programs have been sent to the other 23 highway district offices. Once an organization has adopted a stretch of highway, the department will place signs at each end of the two-mile section, giving credit to the adopting group.
The new Adopt-a-Highway program complements Texas’ other antilitter programs that include a media and education campaign, funding for increased law enforcement, and support of the Governor’s Community Achievement Awards for civic beautification.
Dallas (TX) Morning News
TEXAS HIGHWAY ADOPTION PLAN ALMOST TOO GOOD
Author: Associated Press The Dallas Morning News
Publish Date: December 16, 1986
ATLANTA, Texas—Texas’ “adopt a highway” program has been almost too successful in the northeastern section of the state, officials say.
The only thing keeping the program in business is that Northeast Texas has so many highways. The state program, which allows area civic groups to “adopt’ a specific section of roadway and help keep the road litter-free, has signed up six times more civic groups this year than in 1985.
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Thursday, July 10, 2008 • Permalink