OAKLAND COUNTY — It’s not glamorous, and it might not even sound like a memorable Saturday afternoon, but the time that local Adopt-A-Road volunteers put in keeping their communities’ roadsides looking good is plenty worth it, they say.
“We started at 7 a.m. and had 16 people, so we were able to split the road into about six different segments and get it cleaned up in just a couple of hours,” said Jay Dunstan, president of the Royal Oak Optimist Club.
The club has “adopted” the stretch of 11 Mile Road between Woodward and I-75, cleaning it up about twice a year, including this past Saturday. It is among more than 250 groups that annually take part in the Road Commission for Oakland County’s Adopt-a-Road program, which runs in the spring, summer and fall.
“We usually fill up a couple garbage bags in each segment. … We’ve found some pretty weird things in the past, like a bra. You’ll find boots or tennis shoes — just weird things that don’t belong — and the usual litter like papers, old cups, anything you can think of,” Dunstan added.
April 13-21 marks the spring effort, when more than 360 miles of county-owned roads will get some much-needed TLC, according to Craig Bryson, public information officer for RCOC.
“We all know a clean community looks better. People take pride in being a resident or business owner in a community like that, and those are aspects we’ve found here,” Bryson said about the program that’s been running more than two decades, with volunteer registration up in the last five years.
Without the volunteers taking ownership of their community, the county-owned roads would be next to neglected, he explained.
“We might be able to get to them every once in a while, but certainly wouldn’t be able to do most of the roads that need to be kept clean,” he said. “Staff has gone down 30 percent in the last five years; we don’t have the manpower. And even with staff, there are so many other pressing safety-related projects.”
That leaves it up to groups like Boy Scouts Troop 1710 to clean up their adopted section of Long Lake Road in Troy; Oakland Township firefighters to spruce up Rochester Road between Stoney Creek and Romeo roads; and families like the McMohns, who maintain Airport Road in Waterford Township, in honor of two loved ones.
The Delta Phi Epsilon chapter at Lawrence Technological University adopted the section of Lahser Road between 10 Mile and 12 Mile roads more than five years ago. This year, 17 of the sorority’s 21 active members met up on campus at 5 a.m. to suit up with gloves and get to work.
“It’s pretty messy. Sometimes, you find things you don’t necessarily want to,” chapter President Michelle Hier said with a laugh. “We always make it a challenge to make it more interesting and see who can find the grossest things.”
Among the many “unpleasant” things one can find are dirty diapers, rotting fast food and condoms, she said.
“We don’t mind doing it, though, and we will definitely continue,” Hier added. “It’s just something extra we can do to give back to the community.”
The RCOC provides training and equipment to the volunteers before they are given their designated roads, Bryson explained. Once a group shows commitment to getting their hands dirty a couple times a year, they get an Adopt-a-Road sign in their honor.
The need is greatest in townships, he added, where the county owns a majority of the roads, though nearly every Oakland County community has a road segment covered in the program.
“We greatly appreciate the efforts of these concerned citizens who are willing to volunteer their time and energy to help make sure the roads in their communities are clean,” RCOC Chairman Greg Jamian said in a press release. “We applaud their efforts.”
Groups that volunteer as part of the Adopt-A-Road program receive garbage bags, orange safety vests and safety training from the Road Commission. Any group interested in adopting a paved county road section should call the RCOC Permits and Environmental Concerns Department at (248) 645-2000, ext. 2254.
The summer cleanup session is set for July 13-21, and the fall for Sept. 21-29. For more information about registering a group, visit www.rcocweb.org and click on the environmental tab at the top of the page.
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