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Adopt-A-Highway volunteers rid county roads of garbage

Engineering Enterprises Inc. employees Mark Scheller (right) and Jeff Freeman (left) pick up trash along Bliss Road in Sugar Grove as part of the Adopt-A-Highway program.
Engineering Enterprises Inc. employees Mark Scheller (right) and Jeff Freeman (left) pick up trash along Bliss Road in Sugar Grove as part of the Adopt-A-Highway program.

With more than 300 miles of road to care for, the Kane County Division of Transportation’s maintenance staff has several responsibilities, such as mowing in spring and summer and maintaining highway surfaces, storm sewers and shoulders.

But from spring to fall, they also get help from dozens of groups through the county’s Adopt-A-Highway program. Nearly 90 groups with
1,095 members were registered as of late May, but program coordinator Glenda Starcevich said the numbers frequently change as new groups sign on and others leave.

The volunteers – who participate as families, businesses, Scout troops, veterans organizations and civic groups – pick up trash at least twice a year on such county roads as Fabyan Parkway, Keslinger Road, Kirk Road and Randall Road.

Starcevich said more than 130 miles of road are currently adopted.

“That saves our maintenance crew hours and hours of work,” she said. “They have plenty to do.”

The Kane County Adopt-A-Highway program was established in 1995, the same year the Illinois Adopt-A-Highway program began.

According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, nearly 1,700 groups have adopted about 3,400 miles of state highway and annually collect about 32,000 bags of trash.

“Even with this tremendous effort,” IDOT reports, “Illinois still spends more than $12.5 million each year on litter pickup.”

IDOT recently announced its inaugural spring cleanup – held April 18 to 27 to coincide with Earth Day celebrations – resulted in 422 volunteers collecting nearly 800 bags of trash from state highway roadsides.

IDOT Secretary Ann L. Schneider thanked those who participated in a written statement.

“This past winter was one of the most severe ever and made trash pickup especially challenging,” she said. “The positive response we received to the spring cleanup was overwhelming.”

In Kane County, longtime Adopt-A-Highway participant Engineering Enterprises Inc. of Sugar Grove cleaned its stretch of road – Bliss Road from Denny Road to Route 47 – in early May.

“It’s part of our way of giving back to the communities we serve,” said Angie Smith of EEI.

EEI incorporates its cleanup days within a workday, usually a Friday afternoon, and employees divide into about three or four groups, Smith said.

In addition to bagging trash, she said, they search for unusual items they can bring to their coworker who stays at the office to grill lunch for them.

“We try not to bring the gross stuff back,” Smith said.

In their nine years in Adopt-A-Highway, EEI employees have found “a lot of everything,” Smith said, listing wrappers, newspapers and bottles as common findings.

“We found a wallet one year,” she said. “We found a broken iPhone this time.”

Because of budget limitations, the county provides groups only orange trash bags and safety vests that each volunteer must wear, Starcevich said.
But, she added, those who renew their membership get reflective Adopt-A-Highway hats.

“They just get so excited with these ball caps,” she said, recalling how a mother gave hers to her son, who would point out garbage from the car.

Know more

The minimum commitment to adopt a highway in Kane County is two years. Participants, who must be at least 10 years old, can adopt distances of a half-mile to two miles. Visit or contact Glenda Starcevich, Adopt-A-Highway county coordinator, at 630-584-1171 or for information.

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