CINCINNATI -- A small group of volunteers can go a long way in saving tax dollars spent on Ohio's roadways.
Road cleanup in the seven counties that comprise the Ohio Department of Transportation's District 8 cost $368,995 last year. Through ODOT's Adopt-a-Highway program, volunteers helped offset cleanup costs in the district by $10,866.
Participants in the program commit for two years to clean up 2-mile sections of state routes, United States routes and interstates under ODOT jurisdiction. ODOT provides safety training, disposable safety vests, trash bags and road signs. Volunteers provide the effort.
"It doesn't cost anything, just their time," said Jennifer Henderson, Adopt-a-Highway manager for ODOT District 8.
The Texas Department of Transportation implemented the first Adopt-a-Highway program in 1985. Inspired by theirs, ODOT started its own program in 1990.
Any group or individual willing and able to meet the Adopt-a-Highway expectations can participate in the program.
"We do not turn anyone down who's willing to help us clean up our highways," Henderson said.
Volunteers must apply for a permit, watch a safety video and sign release forms to participate in the program.
Participating groups are expected to pick up their section of roadway at least four times a year.
More than 1,500 groups participate in the program statewide. About 150 of those are active within District 8, which includes Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont counties.
Of the seven counties in the district, Green County has the highest participation, Henderson said.
Some local organizations and businesses participating in the program include AK Steel, the University of Cincinnati's Triangle Fraternity, Colerain Community Association and Westwood-based church City on a Hill.
The region's 150 volunteer organizations offer some relief for ODOT employees in an area with a pervasive litter problem.
"Cincinnati is one of the worst in the state as far as litter," Henderson said.
The unsavory appearance of litter is one of the top factors behind organizations' motivation to participate in the program.
"A lot of businesses don't like the trash," Henderson said.
Businesses aren't alone in the desire to keep roadways looking nice -- church leaders for City on a Hill share a similar mindset.
"It allows us to be able to kind of take pride in the community where we own property," said Jonathan Price, administrative pastor for City on a Hill.
The number of groups participating in the program locally has remained roughly the same in recent years.
"It kind of stays pretty level," Henderson said.
Although the number may not be increasing, the consistency indicates that there generally are enough new participants to fill the gaps left by those who don't renew their permits, she added.
Groups typically are responsible for a 2-mile section of roadway, but exceptions can be granted for smaller groups.
Depending on the organization and the timing of their cleanup efforts, an average group can range from as few as four volunteers to as many as 30.
In addition to enhancing the appearance of the region's roadways, the Adopt-a-Highway program offers an opportunity for businesses and organizations to give back to the community.
"AK Steel is focused on giving back to the communities where we live and work, and this is a great way to be able to help make a difference," wrote AK Steel corporate manager of communications and public relations Lisa Jester in an email.
The effort can strengthen a team player mentality within a group, too.
"It brings people together for a common cause," Price said.
Individuals or groups interested in participating in the Adopt-a-Highway program can find contact information for local district coordinators by clicking here.