Thankful that local groups have 



I was cruising back to Oscoda from a trip to Tawas City on Saturday and noticed a bunch of trash bags on the side of the highway in piles. Normally this would be an unwelcome sight, but believe it or not, I was very happy to see them stacked by the shoulder. The green and white bags were filled with trash collected by Adopt-A-Highway volunteers during one of the summer collection days, the fruits of their hard labor.

Further up the road the parties responsible for the collected trash, volunteers of the program wearing their orange reflective vests, were busily walking US-23, collecting trash, and filling up more green and white trash bags for pickup by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).

As I drove by I gave a few toots of my horn (a very small token of appreciation) to show my support of their efforts and the work they are doing. For those who do not know about the Adopt-A-Highway program, it was started in Minnesota in the 1980s and it was adopted in Michigan in the 1990s as a way to keep the state highways and byways clean of litter and other refuse.

Volunteer groups – whether it is the local Boy Scout troop, families, Lion’s Club, Rotary Club, sports team – work on select weekends a year to clean up the trash along certain sections of highway that they “adopt.” Safety vests and trash bags, as well as a means to have the trash picked up, are supplied by MDOT, and there are different cleanup weekends held throughout the season for the groups. Each group that volunteers to adopt a section also gets a sign signifying that they’ve adopted that particular stretch of highway.

Crews will be working on Michigan highways this summer through July 25, and according to MDOT, this is the second of three weekends that are going to be held this year.

According to MDOT’s statistics on the program there are at least 2,900 volunteer groups that work on the cleanup each weekend it takes place, collecting as many as 60,000 bags of trash annually. 

Christine O’Neil, who is MDOT’s Adopt-A-Highway coordinator for Alcona, Alpena, Iosco, Montmorency, Ogemaw, Oscoda and Presque Isle counties said they are always looking for new groups to volunteer. She said there are 40 available sections in Iosco County to adopt. Group put in time to clean up the sections of the major highways in the county, which include US-23, M-55 and M-65.

“We do have openings in Iosco County and if they are interested they can give me a call,” she said. O’Neil can be reached by calling 989-356-2231 or reaching her by email at

“For me the best part of being a coordinator is when I receive a photo or phone call from a new adoptee when their sign is installed, whether it represents a group, individual business or a family, working to get that personal connection is always a highlight of the process,” said O’Neill

You don’t have to be a volunteer with Adopt-A-Highway to contribute to clean roadways in Michigan. You can help by not littering, even if you do it inadvertently. 

Did your tire blow out on your car? Take the time to clean up the pieces so they’re not sitting there for crews to have to gather. Drive a truck? Make sure that anything that can blow out, and become highway trash, is secured so you can throw it away yourself. See someone littering? Report them to the police. 

Littering in Michigan is a misdemeanor that is subject to a year in jail and/or a $500 fine. Do your part to not contribute to the mess volunteers have to deal with, and if you see an Adopt-A-Highway volunteer hard at work, give them a few toots to say thanks.

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