By Jesse Mast

No you doubt you have seen trash on a roadside — an empty soda bottle or a discarded candy bar wrapper. Maybe you have wanted to do something about it.

Maybe you have seen plastic bags jammed full with trash and lined up neatly on the shoulder of the highway. This is because someone has decided to do something about the trash.

The Adopt-A-Highway program is a way for people around the country, and in Ellicottville, to be involved in caring for the roadways they use. Every trash bag set on the side of the highway is evidence of the hard work and commitment of individuals who have voluntarily given of their time and effort to keep the highway clean.

Susan Surdej of the New York State Department of Transportation (NSYDOT) explained the process of adopting a section of highway. It begins with a phone call to the Cattaraugus County Transportation Maintenance Residency, where a resident engineer can provide a list of highway areas available for adoption.

Anyone over the age of 12 can adopt a highway. Usually highways are adopted by businesses or organizations — for instance, youth groups, church groups or senior citizens groups. This is not necessary, though, because families and even individuals can adopt a highway.

Adopters must also obtain a Highway Work Permit from the NYSDOT. However, the NYSDOT waives the fee for this permit, so that no costs are involved for those adopting highways.

Once a group or individual has been assigned a highway section — usually a 2-mile segment, designated by a blue-and-white sign — they must complete a safety orientation. After this, they are ready to clean up the highway.

Although there is no cost for highway adopters, there is a time commitment. Adopters enter into a formal agreement with the NYSDOT. Surdej said adopters are asked to fulfill a two-year commitment. During this time, adopters are asked to clean up their highway section at least four times a year.

Equipped with trash bags and orange safety gear supplied by the NYSDOT, adopters pick up litter along the highway, seal in it bags and place the bags on the side of the road. They may also mow grass and plant DOT-approved vegetation. After cleanup, the DOT arranges for the collection and proper disposal of the trash bags.

Adopt-A-Highway may be a good way for people in Ellicottville to take part in preserving the beauty of the area. Specific inquiries about adopting a local section of highway may be made to the Cattaraugus County Transportation Maintenance Residency at (716) 945-4562.

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