The popular Adopt-A-Highway litter prevention program turns 30 this year.
It's also the 15th year for state departments of Transportation and Conservation's cooperative No MOre Trash! effort.
The milestones were marked with a ceremony Thursday outside the Miller Performing Arts Center.
Texas created the Adopt-A-Highway program in the mid-1980s as an effort to involve residents in state highway cleanups. The program raised awareness of the careless and harmful act of littering. Missouri quickly followed the idea.
Since 1987, Adopt-A-Highway has involved volunteers from across Missouri. More than 5,200 groups and 50,000 volunteers participate in the program, and more than 6,200 miles of roadway have been adopted. That amounts to approximately $1 million a year in litter cleanup and beautification efforts. Adopters can pick up litter, mow or beautify half-mile to 2-mile sections of road.
Jason Sommerer, of the engineering firm Bartlett & West, and other employees of the business went out after the ceremony to clean their adopted highway section on U.S. 63 between Cedar Creek and the bridge over the Katy Trail.
"When we were discussing ways to help the community, the Adopt-A-Highway program really resonated with us because roadways are connected to what we do on a day-to-day basis, since we design roads and bridges for public agencies," Sommerer said.
The annual No MOre Trash! Bash takes place every spring. Adopt-A-Highway groups pick up during this month, as well as Department of Conservation Stream Team groups and others.
Last year, more than 50,400 bags of litter and many truckloads of debris were collected statewide during the bash.
"Litter is serious business because each year we spend about $6 million to remove litter from more than 385,000 acres of roadsides along 34,000 highway miles in Missouri," MoDOT Chief Engineer Ed Hassinger said. "The Missouri Department of Conservation also spends about $1 million each year to clean up waterways and conservation areas. People expect when they travel in Missouri that the roads, parks and streams are clean. If we had to spend less on clean up we could us it on repairing roads and building bridges. The $6 million MoDOT spends to pick up litter could be used to build 10 bridges every year."
Adopting groups include business owners, civic and nonprofit organizations, families, and individuals.
Gerardo Cornejo, owner of Downtown Realty, picks up trash with his family and employees on the stretch of U.S. 50 between Missouri Boulevard and Monroe Street.
"We meet on Saturdays, and it takes us about one to two hours to clean up this stretch," Cornejo said. "The best part of our cleanups are the people we run into along the way. We always have people that stop and ask if they can help. The people of this town are truly proud of their community, and this is a great way for them to get involved."
Mary Jane Ordway adopts a portion of Route J from the U.S. 50 overpass to Osage City in memory of her son, Jordan Ordway, who died in a car crash in 2006.
"The trash pickup has become a legacy for us to remember Jordan by," Ordway said. "Since the adoption I've picked up trash by myself. It usually takes two to three days. I've had many offers of help, but as long as I remain healthy, I feel the need to do it alone. It gives me many hours for reflection. I think Jordan would be proud that we are putting it out there on how we feel about trash."
To find out more about Adopt-A-Highway, visit modot.org/services/community/adoptahighway.htm.