JEFFERSON CITY - To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the Missouri Department of Transportation's Adopt-A-Highway Program is going wild.
The program, which involves volunteers picking up trash along state highways, is now offering groups the option of adopting roadsides solely to plant Missouri wildflowers. While some groups have been planting flowers, trees and shrubs all along as part of their beautification efforts, this new option will encourage the growth of wildflowers native to Missouri, such as coreopsis and purple coneflowers. MoDOT is joining with Grow Native!, a program sponsored by the departments of Conservation and Agriculture, on the effort.
"The goal of the Adopt-A-Highway program is to keep our roadsides clean and attractive and what better way to do that than to plant native wildflowers along the way," said MoDOT Director Pete Rahn. "This option takes the program one step further and hopefully will spur new adopters to join the cause."
Over the program's 20-year history, more than 100,000 volunteers have picked up thousands of bags of litter, mowed hundreds of roadside miles and planted countless flowers, shrubs and trees. Currently, there are 3,772 groups in the program that have adopted 5,281 highway miles.
"If MoDOT had to do the work of these volunteers, it would cost about $1 million a year and keep our maintenance staff from doing other needed work," Rahn said. "That's money and resources we can put toward road improvements instead."
Texas started the first Adopt-A-Highway program in 1985, and Missouri was one of the next states to follow suit in 1987. Four groups that were among the first Missouri adopters are still in the program: Viva Cuba Beautification Committee, Kiwanis Club of Mountain Grove, the City of North Kansas City and the W.E. Sears Youth Center in Poplar Bluff.
"We adopted because it was a great opportunity for community service for our program," said Donna Nichols, facility manager for the W.E. Sears Youth Center. "We stayed in the Adopt-A-Highway program for 20 years because we made a commitment to keep our adopted section clean."
Businesses, civic groups, non-profit organizations, families and individuals make up the program's adopters. MoDOT recognizes the helpers by posting a sign with the group's name at each end of the adopted highway section.
Because MoDOT is responsible for maintaining 385,000 acres of roadsides along 32,000 highway miles, the agency is always looking for additional adopters, Rahn said.
"We have many active groups in our program, but we also have a lot of ground to cover, literally," Rahn said. "I challenge Missourians to double our current number of adopted miles and make Missouri an even cleaner, more beautiful state."
Anyone interested in adopting a highway can call MoDOT toll-free at 888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636) or visit modot.org.Editor's note:
Downloadable sound bites from Adopt-A-Highway Program Coordinator Stacy Armstrong, along with wildflower photos and the 20-year anniversary logo can be found at www.modot.org/newsroom