The Escapees North Ranch RV Club is located just about smack dab between Wickenburg and Congress Junction along State Route 89. Fun fact: This long-time multigenerational community for travelers and year ‘round residents operates the country’s oldest, largest and most economical private mail forwarding service for club members, something it's done in cooperation with the United States Postal Service since 1985.
The park was built by volunteers and still operates today on the expert skills, knowledge and labor of its dedicated members.
Twenty-nine years ago the club adopted two miles of SR 89 between mileposts 263 and 265, near the park entrance. These days Charles and Grace Ann Carter help organize cleanups with park residents while Yvonne “Voni” Ensley works behind the scenes to ensure volunteer registration and litter bag counts are submitted back to ADOT – a critical task in this operation that she’s taken on for many years.
I had the pleasure of meeting 26 of the volunteers who gave up two hours on a recent brisk morning to help. Teams split up to canvas the right-of-way east and west of the park, where there was no shortage of litter devastating the beautiful scenery. Thirty full bags of trash and a variety of debris were collected. Some of the litter found was already bagged and either tossed or lost by travelers. Cardboard boxes, glass bottles and a well-used pet bed were just a few items cleared away. We marveled over a couple of unique items found: a colorful orb made of blown glass and a brand new metal joist.
When I asked Carter what motivates the group to continue serving the program all these years, he told me the club is made up of many volunteers.
“Most of us are, or were full-time RVers and have volunteered in state parks and national parks for years. Many of our members can be found volunteering in the hospital, museum and other places as needed around Wickenburg. Our ham radio club has furnished communications for parades, runs and bicycle races from Prescott to Congress. We also have several volunteers who participate in search and rescue, and Amateur Radio Emergency Service/Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service communications to assist police, fire, city and county emergency responders.”
Nola Cook, a 30-year resident, RVer and supporter, came out to welcome the group as they trickled back to the clubhouse. She told me she no longer volunteers for litter cleanups but has no shortage of improvement projects to tend to in other areas like the park’s cactus garden. Cook and her late husband were some of the original volunteer builders that made this park what it is today: a well kept home that many enjoy.
Over the past three decades volunteers have uncovered lots of treasures and potential hazards while picking up litter in this area.
“Car and house keys, car and truck parts, tools, building materials, even a case of unopened beer cans. You name it, we've probably found it in the last 29 years,” Carter said.
Some good advice and a bit of inspiration was offered for others considering a highway adoption: “Wear good lace-up boots or shoes, leather gloves and be sure to watch out for snakes and especially for traffic. Above all, have fun.”
Roadside litter is an unfortunate truth and becoming an increasing problem in Arizona. You can prevent a driving hazard for others and from losing your valuables by covering truck beds when hauling open truck loads. Double-check tools, equipment and furniture that can fly out or bounce out of the vehicle endangering drivers around you.
Hundreds of unadopted miles are available on state highways throughout Arizona. To start your own volunteer group and care for a two mile segment of state highway in your community, visit the Adopt a Highway Volunteer program. If you live in Maricopa County check out Don’t Trash Arizona for more facts about litter and litter reduction.
Thank you to the Escapees North Ranch RV Club and each of the volunteers who welcomed me. ADOT celebrates with you and appreciates your twenty nine years of volunteer service. Arizona - Keep it Grand.