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‘All the Way to the Border’ event cleans all 45 miles of SR 286

‘All the Way to the Border’ event cleans all 45 miles of SR 286

January 27, 2024

More than 100 volunteers help keep southern Arizona grand

THREE POINTS – State Route 286 stretching 45 miles north from the U.S.-Mexico border is a whole lot grander thanks to an annual Adopt a Highway event Saturday that attracted more than 100 volunteers and lined the highway with blue bags filled with litter. 

SR 286 travels through Altar Valley between Sasabe in the south and Three Points, where it links with State Route 86 about 25 miles west of Tucson. Much of its path is through high desert grassland in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. 

Melissa Owen, a ranch owner who lives in Sasabe, started organizing SR 286 cleanups in 1995. She expanded nine years ago to clean the highway from end to end in one day, an event she calls “All the Way to the Border.” 

“We can all get behind this good deed and gift to the beautiful Altar Valley,” Owen said. “Highway 286 is more or less our driveway – there is no other way to reach our ranch except by air – and it’s what our friends and business associates see and the impression they get of our neighborhood when they come here.” 

“All the Way to the Border” gets an assist from the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Tucson-based Southcentral District, which issues a special permit for the cleanup, and from ADOT’s Three Points Maintenance Yard, which had staff on hand during the event and collects the bagged litter.

After a safety briefing at Altar Valley Middle School in Three Points, volunteers fanned out along the length of SR 286, bagging everything from aluminum cans to plastic water bottles to shredded plastic to building materials. Joe King’s group picked up near the family’s ranch, with Baboquivari Peak in the distance.

“Our family has lived in this valley since 1895,” King said. “We’re very proud of being here, and we’re proud of being stewards of the land.”

Through ADOT’s Adopt a Highway program, more than 6,000 volunteers tend to adopted miles throughout the year, supported by staff in ADOT’s engineering and maintenance districts statewide. In 2022 alone, the volunteers’ efforts filled more than 12,500 bags of litter while contributing time and effort worth more than $600,000. Even among such distinguished company, “All the Way to the Border” stands out for its scale, number of volunteers and history. 

Mary Currie, ADOT’s Adopt a Highway Program Manager, greeted volunteers working along SR 286 and presented “Keep It Grand” lapel pins.

“We are grateful for Melissa Owen’s hospitality and willingness to lead an event of this magnitude,” Currie said. “Residents, travelers and Arizona’s wildlife benefit from these individuals' hard work.”

To learn more about Adopt a Highway and how you can get involved, please visit azdot.gov/adoptahighway.