By Bob Highfill
San Joaquin County has a problem and needs the community’s help. It seems more and more garbage, litter and debris is being discarded haphazardly along county roads. The county simply hasn’t the funding to hire more manpower to clear more than just large items, leaving burger wrappers, water bottles and other refuse behind.
In December, the county Board of Supervisors approved an Adopt-a-Road Program that encourages individuals, businesses, families and organizations to accomplish a worthwhile goal of taking care of our environment. Those who sign up are trained and outfitted with everything they need to conduct a clean-up, such as garbage bags, reflective vests and portable roadside signs, to help beautify the area and make it safer.
“One of the solutions we came up with was having the community more involved,” said Jim Stone, Deputy Public Works Director of Operation. “So they have some ownership and they have a little more pride in it and realize the government doesn’t have enough funds or enough workers to clean up all those miles of roads.”
The county asks that groups adopt one mile of roadway and conduct two to four cleaning sessions per year, depending on the amount of trash. The requested commitment is at least two years.
Crews can leave the refuse in workable piles for county crews to pick up and haul away the next day. The clean-up teams are not required to move large items or handle glass. Safety is the top priority.
In return, the county will thank program participants with recognition via sponsorship signs installed at the adopted section, news releases and certificates of appreciation. Since the program was approved, the first county Adopt-a-Road Program sponsorship sign went up at Venture Academy on Arch Road in Stockton. “By launching our County’s Adopt-A-Road program, we have officially made it our mission to keep our roadways litter-free once again, thanks to selfless, dedicated volunteers like the students from Venture Academy,” said Supervisor Miguel Villapudua, Chair of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors.
More than a dozen organizations are in the process of signing up for the program, which is a good start because it will take hundreds of crews to cover the county’s 1,660 miles of roads.
The county’s program is similar to those conducted for years by CalTrans and city municipalities. The need for volunteers has grown significantly over the past few years.
Stone said the problem has grown over the past three or so years.
“I don’t have a clear evidence as to why it has increased so much, other than the fact the economy has improved and everybody is buying more stuff and throwing more stuff out the window,” Stone said. “But it has been a very significant increase.”
Stone said the county spends $1 million annually cleaning up illegally dumped material off the side of the road. The county has two full-time crews working to clean county roadsides. The county hasn’t the funding to hire crews to pick up the everyday refuse. So, the county looked into ways to solve the problem.
“We don’t have the funding to go for the small items, the cans and the bottles,” Stone said. “They simply aren’t going to get picked up unless we get volunteer groups to do so.”
Supervisor Villapudua said the program is a cost-effective solution but more so, it’s aimed to help instill a sense of community pride and deter people from littering.
“It is our hope that when residents see volunteers performing this noble community service, they will think twice before carelessly trashing neighborhoods and as well speaking up when they see others committing this unacceptable behavior.”
By Bob Highfill