Keeping the community streets clean and safe isn't just the work of the Department of Transportation. Although the county facilitates the bulk of the task, it also relies on a program, developed in 1989, to assist in the effort.
Besides contaminating the environment with an ugly, unkempt appearance, litter and trash are harmful to communities, causing traffic hazards and affecting drainage.
Consider the following facts about how long it takes for certain items, thrown into the environment, to decompose: A banana peel, two to 10 days; milk cartons, around five years; aluminum cans, 80 to 100 years; plastic bag, 15 to 1,000 years; diapers 500 to 800 years.
Further, stormwater runoff, which occurs after a rainfall, can collect many different types of pollution before it reaches a body of water, including debris, dirt and other chemicals.
Clay Black, the Stormwater Engineer for the Hernando County Division of Transportation, said the Adopt-A-Road program has significantly impacted the community by cleaning up neighborhood streets and making them safer for residents.
"I believe Hernando County was the second to enact the program," Black said. Before the recession, when funding was plentiful and the program operated at its peak, 78 active groups participated. Now, there are just over 20.
Due to lack of funding, Adopt-A-Road was recently suspended. But everything is back up and running and the program is being revitalized.
It is documented that each adopted road saves the county up to $500 a year, said Black. "But it's about more than the money."
Adopt-A-Road can make a significant difference by demonstrating community pride, making a positive statement for a clean and attractive community, keeping roadways and waterways free of litter and debris, reducing stormwater runoff and preventing water pollution while promoting watershed awareness, and offsetting the county budget and allowing the county to become more proactive than reactive.
Participation in the program also provides education about safety during cleanups, instructing team leaders on the right way to safely remove debris, garbage and potentially dangerous items from the streets.
"By keeping the sides of the roads free from food particles," he explained "wild animals are less likely to hang around."
Black said any individual, family or group that is willing to commit to a two-year contract in writing, complete a safety course and fulfill the four clean-ups a year obligation can become a part of the program.
Each group adopts a mile section of roadway of a county-maintained street. State and federal highways are not part of the program.
The County Department of Public Works provides the safety training, two white on blue Adopt-A-Road signs (stating the volunteer group's name), "litter crew on road" signs, safety vests and trash bags, according to the Adopt-A-Road brochure.
The safety course is completed in a single morning and is offered on the first Monday of the month at the Division of Transportation Services located at 1525 E. Jefferson St. in Brooksville.
Safety courses are offered to groups and organizations when they sign up for the program. And if they acquire more members during the course of their two-year commitment, team leaders are expected to then educate their new members, Black said.
Safe cleanups are the main factor, he added, which is why only sections of road considered safe for volunteer litter removal are approved for adoption.
Apart from the obvious benefits to the community in terms of health and aesthetics, Black said the program also bonds community members who take pride in doing what they can for their neighborhoods.
Like the Latin American Civic and Cultural Association and the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 560. Both groups have been participants in the program for years.
It has been such a positive impact on the county, Black said. He will even come out and speak in front of school classes or other groups upon request.
For more information about the Adopt-A-Road Program and how you can participate, contact Black directly at (352) 754-4062. Or visit the website at www.co.hernando.fl.us.
Hernando Today correspondent Kim Dame can be reached at email@example.com