Through the Keep Bartow Beautiful Adopt-A-Road program, volunteers regularly clean up Bartow’s roadways without fanfare, recognition or commemorative T-shirts. Instead, they place their names on a sign as a public commitment to bettering their part of the world.
“Currently, we have about 50 active Adopt-A-Roads and those are groups or individuals we know actively pick up because they either send in reports or we see them do it,” said Bartow County Environmental Programs Associate Missy Phillips. “Generally, they adopt a mile when they Adopt-A-Road, but there are many that go beyond that.
“I estimated that last year, their volunteer efforts were worth over $8,000 in savings to the government because we did not have to provide that service in their area.”
Keep Bartow Beautiful estimates that Adopt-A-Road volunteers collected more than 4,000 pounds of trash last year alone, including illegal dump sites, household trash, construction materials, furniture and caustic chemicals.
The Adopt-A-Road program began around 2004, but Bartow County residents Fred and Sharon Hollingsworth have been cleaning more than their fair share for a lot longer. The Hollingsworths are avid walkers, often accompanied by their dogs, and they began simply picking up trash along Holly Springs Road as they walked for exercise and enjoyment. When Keep Bartow Beautiful asked for volunteers to adopt a roadway and report what they collect, the Hollingsworths were quick to help out and continue their efforts on approximately 4 1/2 miles of roadway.
“We would take walks around our neighborhood and we noticed the trash and we started picking it up. Then later on, we found out about Keep Bartow Beautiful and decided we’d join, because we were picking it up anyway,” said Fred Hollingsworth. “Since we walk every week, we pretty much pick up the entire route each week.
“We try to keep up with it, but it depends on the time of the year. The summertime is a lot worse because people have their car windows open and things blow out when hauling trash to the dump. So it keeps us pretty busy in the summer; during the winter people have their windows closed and it’s not as bad, but we collect a good bit of trash. We fill up a few large garbage bags every quarter.”
The Hollingsworths go above and beyond in more than just distance covered, they also separate recyclables from trash before carrying it to a collection site. Like many volunteers, the Hollingsworths pick up their roadways much more frequently than the quarterly cleanup that is required. They also report their collection amounts once a quarter.
Reporting trash amounts is one piece that many volunteers neglect, not out of carelessness Phillips contends, but in an attempt to remain selfless and anonymous. Officials, however, urge all volunteers to report their collection amounts regularly in order to grow and advance the program.
“Some are very, very diligent about the work, but I think they feel they don’t want to be rewarded for doing this work,” Phillips said. “They don’t want to be recognized, they want to be more or less anonymous, but the truth is that we could use their numbers and the program would benefit for that.”
Not only can litter and illegal dump sites cause eyesores for passersby, but they also can prove detrimental to the environment and wildlife. Beyond the cost to natural resources, Phillips sees a difference in the communities that actively participate in the Adopt-A-Road program.
“There’s also an emotional detriment. It causes people to think less of the area and they can sometimes assume things about people living in that area that are not very flattering,” Phillips said. “It’s about community pride, how we look to the outside world, how we look to investors.
“Adopt-A-Road really stresses how important Bartow roadways are, particularly those areas that are adopted, because adoptees think of these roads as being important to them because they lie within their community.”
Anyone interested in adopting a mile of roadway within Bartow County can call Keep Bartow Beautiful at 770-387-5167.