Adopt-A-Highway: Keeping California, the county beautiful one highway at a time

If you’ve driven down any one of the county’s highways, seen trash and wanted to know what you can to do help have it removed, you may want to consider taking part in Caltrans’ Adopt-A-Highway program. Adopt-A-Highway is a state beautification effort that not only includes litter removal, but also graffiti removal, vegetation control, tree planting and wildflower planting. Established in 1989, California became the 20th state in the nation to develop a highway clean-up program that promotes civic responsibility and community pride, while also helping keep pollutants out of waterways and saving the state some money. During the second half of last year, from July through December, program participants picked up nearly 8,893 cubic yards of trash from along California’s roadsides. That saved taxpayers nearly $1 million. While the state has about 7,725 shoulder-miles of adopted highway, more than 80 of those miles are adoptable right here in Santa Cruz County, said Jeanette Green, Adopt-A-Highway coordinator for Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey counties. And of the 2,575 groups participating in the program statewide, about 30 of them are local, she said. Almost all of the highways in the county have been or are in the process of being adopted, Green said. The area's Park & Ride lots and Vista Point areas also have been adopted, she said. “(However,) there are over 40 miles of highway in Santa Cruz that are deemed ‘Not Adoptable’ for safety reasons,” said Green. Of the 30 groups on the local Adopt-A-highway list, most are volunteers who actually go out and pick up trash themselves, she said. Meanwhile, some other groups have opted to hire an Adopt-A-Highway contractor to do the litter clean up. Most areas require litter removal once monthly, Green said, while noting that two annual volunteer clean-up events are planned for Earth Day in April and Coastal Clean-Up Day in September. After groups sign up to adopt a highway and they are ready to hit the pavement, Caltrans supplies them with an encroachment permit, safety orientation, hard hats, gloves, safety glasses, litter pickers, safety vests and litter bags, she said. In recognition of their efforts, the groups are honored with an Adopt-A-Highway sign placed on the highway they sign up to keep clean. Also, annually, the program selects at least one Adopt-A-Highway program participant to be volunteer of the year. Last year, Kaplan Volleyball, which cleans the turnouts along Highway 9, was honored. The other honoree was Wildhorse Café for its work along Highway 101 south of King City. A waiting list has been set up for sections of highways that have already been adopted. To apply to be added to the wait list, or for information on the Adopt-A-Highway program, visit or contact Green at (831) 372-1132 or
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