Adopt a Highway: Bonding with our mile of State Route 87

Adopt a Highway: Bonding with our mile of State Route 87

By Steve Elliott / ADOT Communications
November 6, 2023
A collage of three photos. One shows a woman picking up litter along a highway, another shows a man picking up litter along a highway, and the third shows a highway milepost sign with a bag of collected litter nearby.

It lies between mileposts 180 and 181 of State Route 87, a few minutes north of the Loop 202 Red Mountain Freeway. Its endpoints are a little north of Mesa Drive and right at Stapley Drive. There’s a deep wash with a culvert about one-third of the mile north of milepost 180, a helpful landmark when dividing both directions for an Adopt a Highway litter pickup. And it’s a little nicer today because of a visit from Elliott Family and Friends, our group that recently adopted this mile.

In a way that surprises me as I reflect on our group’s first Adopt a Highway pickup, this mile is now a friend. We want it to be as clean as possible. We want others to help keep it clean (we picked up way too many losing lottery scratch-offs, soft drink cups, water bottles and beer cans). We’re already discussing strategy for our next pickup, which I know will be sooner than originally planned because of this connection.

I’m proud that 12 of us filled 22 large bags in less than two hours early on a Saturday. We left those bags at intervals just off the shoulder for ADOT staff to pick up, along with a twin mattress, a large dog carrier, a window screen and several large cardboard boxes.

During my years with ADOT Communications, I’ve written quite a few news releases and blogs about the importance of Adopt a Highway volunteers. But I’d participated in just one cleanup. I’d like to say the reason for finally adopting was 100% altruism, but it also had to do with my son and his friends having service requirements at their high schools. And it stemmed from a desire to see what volunteers experience, from identifying a potential mile to requesting a two-year Adopt a Highway permit to scheduling and carrying out a pickup.

Whatever the reasons for finally adopting a mile, today I’m grateful for them.

I guess I sound a little like the Seinfeld episode in which Kramer adopts a mile of the fictional Arthur Burghardt Expressway. Rest assured I won’t be running into traffic to collect a flattened soda can or reconfiguring the lanes, but I do feel an unexpected connection with and responsibility for this mile.

It isn’t all sunshine and light: Our mile is on the way to a landfill, so some of what we bagged and dragged is household garbage that likely escaped from trucks and trailers, including a couple of burst bags of trash. I’m guessing that’s how the mattress, dog carrier, large boxes and screen got there as well. While mile 180-181 comes with this added challenge, we’re on board to care for it. 

If you’d like to bond with your own highway mile, I encourage you to visit and see what’s involved. Like me, I think you’ll get more than you expect from the experience. 

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