An Echo Press Editorial: Highway ditches need helpers

From the editorial: More than 1,860 Adopt a Highway groups volunteered their time, putting in well over 88,000 hours collectively last year.

This file photo from 2020 shows an Adopt a Highway sign dedicated to Jim Klimek, who passed away in 2008 from cancer. His family and friends in the photo include (left to right) Erv Klimek, Michelle Klimek, Ashley Wussow, Darcy Wussow, Rose Kane, Jamie Suchy, Jon Doucette, Mercedes Doucette, Gayle Suchy and Jeff Harstad.
Contributed file photo

Imagine 38,500 bags filled with trash being scattered along state highways.

Think like that would look like – the bottles, cans, fast food wrappers, construction debris, and just plain old garbage – and how quickly all that trash can accumulate.

Fortunately, someone cleans it up on a regular basis: the thousands of Adopt a Highway volunteers who help keep roadsides clean and free of litter. The Minnesota Department of Transportation provided that 38,500 number because that’s how many bags volunteers collected from highways in 2022.

More than 1,860 Adopt a Highway groups volunteered their time, putting in well over 88,000 hours collectively last year.

But they could use some help. Right now, at least 900 roadway sections are available for adoption statewide.


“Adopt a Highway volunteers provide such a valuable service to our state,” said Ann McLellan, MnDOT’s Adopt a Highway manager. “Not only do they help keep Minnesota roadsides clean and beautiful, but their work allows MnDOT crews to focus on other tasks to keep highways safe for all travelers.”

The volunteers for this program are easily overlooked and they’re efforts to remove junky eyesores along the roadways are taken for granted.

Who are these volunteers? MnDOT says they’re typically community groups, churches, individuals or businesses. They adopt a highway by picking up litter on both sides of a road at least two times per year for at least two years.

MnDOT says the benefits from the program are many:

  • It keeps roadsides beautiful and free of litter.
  • It can provide a public service project for groups and families.
  • It shows that Minnesotans care about their state.
  • It saves taxpayers money because the work is all volunteer.

Joining the ranks of these Adopt a Highway crews is a simple process. Volunteers have two options:

  • Adopt a Highway or Rest Area. Volunteers sign an agreement with MnDOT to adopt a section of state highway or designated rest area and commit to pick up litter on both sides of their roadway section at least twice a year. The average length of an adopted roadway is two miles.
  • Pick a Highway. This is a one-time litter picking activity on an assigned segment of state highway.

Maintenance crews pick up the filled bags of trash that volunteers leave along the side of the road. For both options, MnDOT will provide bags, approved safety vests, training and bag retrieval. Volunteers contribute approximately four hours of labor. Contact an Adopt a Highway coordinator for details. MnDOT will also post signs along the adopted segments of road to recognize the name of volunteer groups.
MnDOT encourages drivers to slow down, move over and use caution whenever they see an Adopt a Highway volunteer group picking up trash along the roadway.

The Adopt a Highway program has been part of MnDOT’s maintenance operations since 1990. Unless the litterbugs finally realize the error of their ways, it’s likely to continue for many decades to come. Everyone can do their part by volunteering for a program that turns community involvement into cleaner roadsides.

Douglas County is in MnDOT District 4 and the Adopt a Highway coordinator is Brianne Raftevold – 218-846-3600, 1-800-657-3984, or email .

The Alexandria Echo Press Editorial Board consists of Editor Al Edenloff and Publisher Diane Drew.
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