Volunteers are keeping it clean in Southfield

Spring cleanups focus on roadways, Community Garden and more

By: Kathryn Pentiuk | Southfield Sun | Published May 10, 2023

 The Keego Cass Women’s Club cleaned up 1.5 miles of road during the fall 2022 cleanup.

The Keego Cass Women’s Club cleaned up 1.5 miles of road during the fall 2022 cleanup.

Photo by Craig Bryson


SOUTHFIELD — You don’t have to drive too far to see one of the “Oakland County Adopt-A-Road” designations. In fact, Oakland County is home to 513 miles of roads adopted by 354 groups committed to keeping the roads clean.

“The spring cleanup is definitely the most crucial one and the one we see the largest amount of litter picked up, since the trash has been building up all winter,” said Craig Bryson, the senior communications manager for the Road Commission for Oakland County.

Bryson explained that the process is simple for volunteers. First, they are welcome to select from any primary road within the county that is available. There’s an interactive map on rcocweb.org that can be accessed by clicking the link on the Adopt-A-Road web page. After volunteers have selected their road, they are asked to participate in two out of the three cleanups. The Road Commission gives volunteers safety vests and trash bags to collect the litter. When volunteers are done cleaning up, the Road Commission asks that they leave the bags by the road to indicate that they’ve completed the job, and then the Road Commission picks up the bags.

Bryson expressed his gratitude for the volunteers.

“We get a less littered road, and the community looks better,” he said. “It also benefits our drainage system so that it doesn’t get plugged with unnecessary trash.”

Some of the latest volunteers to join the Adopt-A-Road program this year include Nunmaan Tamil Academy - Learn Tamil, The Home Depot Store 2727/Rochester Hills, and the Southfield Alumni Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.

Grant Ward, of Grant Ward Surveyors, is a long-time volunteer of the Adopt-A-Road program and adopted Dixie Highway between Interstate 75 and Davisburg Road in Springfield Township, in August 1994, although he’s been cleaning up the roadside for longer than that — he estimates since around 1988. Ward stated that he felt convicted when he was in the Marines and observed the roads becoming littered with cigarette butts, paper and other trash that people would carelessly discard from their car windows.

“I was guilty, and I decided I wasn’t going to be guilty anymore,” he said. “And so, I just quit throwing trash out the window like everybody else. And then, when I saw an opportunity out here, I decided to do it,” he said of the cleanup.

While Ward isn’t physically able to clean up his road anymore, that doesn’t stop him from getting the litter picked up.

Instead of going out there himself, he hires one to two people to go out there and ensure that the road is cleaned up.

“We enjoy it and see that it needs to be done,” he said. “It’s easier to form a committee for cleaning up the environment than it is to pick up a gum wrapper.”

Ward explained that when he was president of the Southeast Chapter of the Michigan Society of Professional Surveyors, he used to give away a monthly “Gum Wrapper Award” to someone who saw a job that needed to be done and did it.

For Southfield residents looking to get involved in an even more local cleanup initiative, Pat McLamore, the president of the Southfield Parks and Garden Club, expressed that they are always looking for long-term or short-term volunteers who want to help with their beautification and cleanup initiatives that give back to the community.

The Southfield Parks and Garden Club welcomes volunteers to partake in volunteer opportunities such as their annual rake day, held every fall for those who need help raking their yard; the Chore program, which is done in partnership with the city to aid low-income elderly or disabled homeowners in maintaining their yard; various litter pickups held on an as-needed basis; and the Community Farm, which is an all-volunteer based project that helps feed those in need in southeast Michigan, located at Emmanuel Lutheran Church on Lahser Road. The Community Farm is open for the season and is looking for volunteers to help out 9 a.m.-noon Saturdays and 3-6 p.m. Wednesdays.

“We have to clean up first, before we get our plants going,” McLamore stated. “So as far as a cleanup, it doesn’t necessarily have to be trash. It can be just getting something started to grow and to help people.”

For more information on Oakland’s Adopt-A-Road program, visit rcocweb.org.

For more information on the Southfield Parks and Garden Club, visit southfieldparksandgarden.org.