Kiwanis chapter, Payette County inmates to be honored
as District 3 Adopt-A-Highway groups of year

Two diverse groups that share a common commitment will be honored next week for keeping highways clean in southwest Idaho.

Gem State Kiwanis, a civic organization founded a half-century ago, is focused on community service and programs for children. It will be honored as the District 3 Adopt-A-Highway small group of the year Thursday in Boise.

Created in October 1961, the Gem State chapter sponsors service clubs and provides scholarships to students at Jefferson Elementary School, South Junior High and Capital High School. It also is developing an educational program through Boise State University.

Members volunteer as cooks at Ronald McDonald House and read and assist with math projects at the elementary school. The club also provides funds and scholarships to Hope House in Marsing and is a leading fund-raiser for the Salvation Army through participation in Christmas bell ringing.

It is a primary sponsor for the annual 4-H/FFA picnic at the Western Idaho Fair, serving more than 800 free meals to young fair exhibitors. Gem State has sponsored a July 4th pancake breakfast at Julia Davis Park in Boise the past 48 years.

Unheralded, but just as visible, group members adopted a segment of highly traveled Eagle Road (Idaho 55) to keep it free of litter. Eagle Road is the busiest non-interstate highway in Idaho, used by commuters, shoppers and travelers destined for recreation in Idaho’s mountains. Approximately 36,000 vehicles travel the route daily.

Gem State has cleaned the highway between mileposts 11 and 14 since joining the ITD Adopt-A-Highway program in 1990 when just 8,900 vehicles used the highway daily. The club’s volunteer commitment actually pre-dates creation of ITD’s highway adoption program.

With increased traffic comes increased litter, says Don Heavrin, coordinator of the service club’s cleanup efforts. Last year, the club removed about 2.5 tons of unsightly trash from the route.

“It is groups like the Kiwanis club that truly make a difference keeping Idaho beautiful and safe for the traveling public,” says Sherie Sweaney, ITD volunteer services coordinator.

The Idaho Transportation Board also will honor the Payette County Sheriff’s inmate labor program as the District 3 Adopt-A-Highway large group of the year. As a service to the community, inmates clean five adopted sites in the district. They are responsible for cleanups on:

  • Interstate 84 from milepost 0 to 17 (adopted in 1990)
  • Idaho 52, milepost 0 to 20
  • U.S. 30, milepost 0-1
  • U.S. 30, milepost 21.3 to 31.2, and
  • U.S. 95, milepost 51 to 71

In 2010, inmates removed 31,500 pounds of litter from the five adopted segments.

“We are very proud of the long-standing recycling efforts of this group, which started in 1995,” said Althea Fackrell, ITD’s District 3 Adopt-A-Highway coordinator.

When the inmate labor program began, most of the items collected were aluminum cans. In 2005, the program expanded its recycling efforts by adding metal and clean plastic bottles. Highway cleanups yield about 5,000 pounds of recycled material annually.

Deputy Henry Hixson, a 17-year veteran of the Payette County Sheriff’s Office, began reporting his group’s recycling statistics in April 2010 as a way of documenting their efforts and encouraging other groups to recycle materials. Last year, the inmates accounted for 92 bags of aluminum cans and bottles.

Representatives of Gem State Kiwanis and the Payette County Inmate Labor Program are expected to receive commendations from the Transportation Board at its monthly business meeting Thursday.

ITD’s statewide Adopt-A-Highway program organizes the cleaning of Idaho roadsides by volunteer groups. Those groups “adopt” a specific stretch of highway – usually two miles or longer – and take responsibility for keeping it clean through regular litter patrols.
Approximately 1,000 Adopt-A-Highway groups conducted regular cleanups in 2010, logging a total of nearly 58,000 person-hours and saving ITD an estimated $750,000. Through their efforts, ITD is able to commit more resources to highway projects that improve travel conditions and safety.
More than half of Idaho’s highways have been adopted, leaving ample opportunities for other groups and individuals to become involved.

In addition to groups participating in the Adopt-A-Highway program, an increasing number of volunteers also are involved in keeping Idaho highways clean and attractive. In calendar year 2010, they removed 2,814 bags of garbage, or more than 98,000 pounds, from roadsides.

Adopt-A-Highway groups and non-affiliated volunteers make a tremendous difference in the appearance of Idaho’s highways, said Sherie Sweaney, statewide Volunteer Services Coordinator. “It really is gratifying that so many people are committed to keeping our highways clean and attractive,” she said. “It also helps us get the most out of our available highway maintenance funds.”

For more information about adopting a stretch of highway or participating in volunteer services, contact Sweaney at (800) 443-2878.

Published 8-12-2011