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Adopt-a-Highway removes 3M lbs. of litter, saves $25M in labor

Adopt A Highway Logo

Idaho’s roadsides are indebted to Idaho’s Centennial Celebration in 1990 and the “Idaho is Too Great to Litter” campaign that was rolled out to help keep them clean.

Volunteer groups “adopt” a specific stretch of highway – usually two miles long – and take responsibility for keeping it clean through regular litter patrols throughout the year.

ITD estimates that the program saves about $750,000 annually by using volunteer labor – in 33 years that adds up to about $24.8M. More than 3.3 million lbs. of trash and debris have been removed from Idaho’s roadsides through the program, including the trash pick-up efforts of inmate crews through the Department of Corrections. The savings are redirected to highway construction and needed maintenance to improve Gem State roads and bridges.

There are more than 1,000 active volunteer groups participating in the statewide program. More than half of Idaho’s highways have been adopted. There are still many opportunities for other groups and individuals to get involved. Almost a third of the roadsides on the state’s highway system are available for adoption.

For more information about the program, contact the area coordinator:

North Idaho | Counties: Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai and Shoshone

North Central Idaho | Counties: Clearwater, Idaho, Latah, Lewis and Nez Perce

Southwest Idaho | Counties: Ada, Adams, Boise, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Valley and Washington

South-central Idaho | Counties: Blaine, Camas, Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka and Twin Falls

Southeast Idaho | Counties: Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Caribou, Franklin, Oneida and Power.

East Idaho | Counties: Bonneville, Butte, Clark, Freemont, Custer, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison and Teton

New machine to pick up trash on I-90 this spring

New trash machine working in the median of I-90

The Idaho Transportation Department will use a new machine this spring to pick up trash along Interstate 90 from Washington to Coeur d’Alene.

“Now that the snow has melted, everyone can see the ugly truth about how much garbage has been piling up all winter,” Operations Engineer Jerry Wilson said. “This year, we have already started our cleanup efforts and will use a new machine, once conditions allow, to do it more efficiently.”

The department invested in the machine to speed up the collection process. It only takes two operators: one to drive the machine, which uses metal teeth to comb through the grass, and another to haul the trash away in a dump truck.

“To do one mile by hand, it takes five operators working together for eight hours,” Wilson said. “With the machine, we can cut that down to two people working five hours and still cover the same distance.”

The machine works well in the flat areas in the median, which Adopt-A-Highway volunteers are typically encouraged to avoid for their own safety.

“We will continue to rely on volunteers through the Adopt-A-Highway program to help get this mess cleaned up,” Wilson said. “They are just as valuable to us as this new machine, and we are inspired by the effort they make every year to keep Idaho beautiful.”

In 2021, volunteers in North Idaho picked up 4,171 bags of litter or about 72.8 tons – enough to fill 18 garbage trucks.

“There’s always a lag time between when the snow melts and the trash gets picked up, but once the median gets less muddy, and we have the dump truck ready to go, you’ll see us out there using the new equipment,” Wilson said.


Diablos 4H Horse Club is North Idaho litter cleanup Group of the Year

ITD truck loaded with bags of trash from an Adopt a Highway pickup
In 1991, the Diablos 4-H Horse Club of Hayden Lake formed an Adopt-A-Highway group and committed to a few years of keeping a two-mile section on US-95 just past the town’s city limits clean from litter. Thirty years later, their passion for beautification remains the same, and that stretch of highway is clear…as are a few other pieces of road as they have occasionally branched out beyond that original commitment.
Last year, COVID prevented the club from cleaning as they typically do. However, over time the group has assembled some impressive numbers, under the direction of Mariam Crumb. Some of the original members have moved along and traded horses for other forms of transportation, but one thing remains the same — Marian.  Crumb has been part of the litter clean-up efforts since the beginning in 1991, but the efforts actually began a dozen years before the “official” formation.
When asked about her sense of devotion to community, she said it was the influence of her parents to do what she could “to make the world a better place.”  Her service has meant organizing 1,340 volunteers in picking up nearly 24 tons of litter.
Marion has allowed us to share that she is 88 years old, has been with the 4-H program for 58 years, has taught horseback riding for over 70 years — 41 years of which have been with North Idaho College. She has an extensive college education in the teaching field, with a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and enough college credits for a PhD.
For more information about adopting a stretch of highway in North Idaho, contact Volunteer Services Coordinator Robin Karsann at 208-772-8011. The AAH statewide coordinator is Judi Conner, who can be reached at 208 334-8094.

ITD’s statewide Adopt-A-Highway program organizes the cleaning of Idaho roadsides by volunteer groups. Those groups “adopt” a specific stretch of highway – usually two miles long – and take responsibility for keeping it clean through regular litter patrols, usually seasonal, although winter patrols are frequently postponed until the snow melts to reveal the trash lying beneath.

This is not the only time the group has been recognized by the Idaho Transportation Board. In 2008, the board and District 1 officials presented the group with a certificate of appreciation and a clock fashioned from a sample state license plate.

Mariam Crumb at left holding plaque, along with Danielle Kern.

“Trucker Matt” helps keep I-90 clean as spring reveals trash covered by winter snows

A long-haul driver who goes by the name “Trucker Matt” has taken it upon himself to clean a stretch of Interstate 90 when his travels take him daily on the heavily traveled north Idaho freeway linking Idaho to Montana and Washington State.

Matthew Culver hauls cedar bark from Naples, Idaho to Superior, Montana. He has been driving truck since retiring from the Marine Corps in 1999. He has owned his own truck, and his own company, since 2007.

Culver has driven the route daily, year-round, for about 4.5 years, and officially signed on with ITD’s Adopt-A-Highway litter pickup program about two years ago. Since then he has picked up about 90 bags of litter from the stretch of freeway.

“I not only clean up Fourth of July Summit, but all over on the route in any wide spot where a truck can safely park,” Culver said. “Fourth of July Pass is my primary objective since it seems to get the most trash, but I also clean up the Idaho Port of Entry roadside temporary inspection location in East Hope at Denton Slough and occasionally Lookout Pass Summit.” He said he and his wife will often bring back a bag of trash from wherever their hiking and fishing adventures take them.

“Wherever Matt goes and whatever he does, he continually looks for ways to make a positive difference,” D1 Volunteer Services Coordinator Robin Karsann said.

Culver’s time in the military made him appreciate cleanliness.

“Having served 25 years in the Marine Corps, I never like seeing an unsightly area with trash strew about everywhere. Besides, Idaho and Montana are just too beautiful to see trash along the road.”

He said it is very rewarding when he sees a clean stretch of highway where litter once was.

“I get dejected when I see trash on the roadside, but when I take action, I feel that I’ve made a positive difference in keeping roads clean and pleasing to the eye.”

Culver said he would love to see more people get involved in keeping our roads clear of debris.

“You can make it a spring and fall event for your business or family. It’s great advertisement for your business and you can honor and memorialize a lost loved one or veteran.”

“I urge others to get involved by contacting your local Idaho DOT office and sign up. The Idaho Transportation Department will provide trash bags and safety vests. Not only have I benefited in getting exercise by picking up trash, and experienced the rewarding feeling of making a difference, I have also collected thousands of dollars in excellent-condition tire chains, bungee cords, hand tools, and more all left abandoned by truckers. It’s a win-win-win situation.”

Culver Enterprises is one of the 242 organizations in District 1 that participate in the Adopt-a-Highway program. Some have made it a long-term commitment.

“What amazes me about being a Volunteer Services Coordinator for District 1 is to see the faithfulness and longevity of participation our volunteers show year after year,” said Karsann. “Several groups have been participants for more than 20 years.”

Here’s the list of Adopt-a-Highway coordinators around the state:

District 1 | Counties: Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai and Shoshone

Judi Conner | PO Box 7129, Boise, ID  83707-1129 | Phone: 208 334-8094


District 2 | Counties: Clearwater, Idaho, Latah, Lewis and Nez Perce

Kelsie Corder | P.O. Box 837, Lewiston, Idaho 83501-0837 | Phone: 208-799-4207


District 3 | Counties: Ada, Adams, Boise, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Valley and Washington

Judi Conner | PO Box 7129, Boise, ID  83707-1129 | Phone: 208 334-8094


District 4 | Counties: Blaine, Camas, Cassia, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka and Twin Falls

Wendy Robinson | 126 S. Date Street, Shoshone, ID  83352 | Phone: 208 886-7831


District 5 | Counties: Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Caribou, Franklin, Oneida and Power

Judi Conner | PO Box 7129, Boise, ID  83707-1129 | Phone: 208 334-8094


District 6 | Counties: Bonneville, Butte, Clark, Fremont, Custer, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison and Teton

Erika Turner | PO Box 97, Rigby, ID 83442-0097 | Phone: 208 745-5612

Adopt-A-Highway volunteers find treasures among the trash

Gretchen Sherlin holds a $100 bill, found while collecting litter along ID-20

Overlooked and underappreciated, those that collect trash along Idaho’s highways give more than they receive. But among the discarded plastic, paper, and aluminum Adopt-A-Highway volunteers Mike Harkins and Gretchen Sherlin have found their own reward.

The couple moved to Mountain Home two years ago, and soon began their charity. Clad in orange and wielding pokers, they picked their way along miles of desert. U.S. Highway 20 is a hot spot.

Mike Harkins stands beneath the Adopt-A-Highway sign with his and Gretchen's name
Mike Harkins stands beneath the Adopt-A-Highway sign with his and Gretchen’s name

Day by day, the faithful pair collected what would soon become a mountain of trash.

“We decided to start counting the number of cans we collected,” said Gretchen. “After one year, we have picked up 18,666.”

Their affinity for detail is the benefit to the community. Mike and Gretchen have recycled those cans, taking the time to remove the tabs and donate them to the Ronald McDonald House in Boise.

The cleanup does more than beautify the land. Besides the broken glass, twine, and disposable diapers, discarded items open up mysteries of personal stories.

“We’ve found cell phones, a laptop computer, a hide-a-bed,” said Gretchen. “We even found a certificate and plaque for a military person’s achievements.”

The couple also stumbles on their fair share of action.

“This past spring we were picking up trash along a rural road,” said Gretchen. “We noticed a herd of cattle and there was a cow frantically running back and forth, calling for her calf that was outside the fence. Realizing the drama unfolding before us, I herded the little calf about 1/4 mile on foot to a gate that my husband had opened, reuniting the little calf with its mother.”

The driving force for Mike and Gretchen is to improve the land and “giving the critters that live in the desert a cleaner habitat.”

It seems all that good karma pays off. While making the rounds, movement caught Gretchen’s eye. It was a piece of paper. Stooping down to pick up the piece of trash, as she’s done thousands of times before, Gretchen discovered this was no mere cast-off but a $100 bill, it’s previous owner nowhere in sight.

Was it a coincidence? A thank you from Mother Earth? Perhaps we’ll never know, but that piece of paper put a spring in Mike and Gretchen’s step as they collect a thousand more.

Interested in joining the Adopt-A-Highway program? Contact ITD at (208) 334-8000 or visit us online at

Collecting trash, even in the winter

An Adopt a Highway volunteer stops for a picture on Ramsey Road in CDA.

Trash is deposited along state highways year round, but most drivers tend to forget about it during the winter months when snow covers it temporarily.

That doesn’t apply to Richard White, a 63-year-old Coeur d’Alene resident who for nearly three years has independently roved city streets and state highways to pick it up.

White said he retired early from his job with Strate Line Crane & Rigging (now Barnhart Crane & Rigging) due to medical issues, and months later found himself tinkering on a neighbor’s bicycle. Given his health condition, he was surprised when his test trip down the driveway to get the mail worked out.

He decided to get back on his larger bike and gained access to mobility he had been missing. He also found trash on his travels, inspiring him to develop a loop through Coeur d’Alene and even toward Post Falls that covers more than 20 miles.

“I can’t see or walk very well, or even drive, but I can pick up trash,” White said.

White makes the trip every morning on his bike, wearing reflective gear and packing tools like plastic bags, a saw and rolls of wire on his back. His trips are so regular that often he does not even need to stop to pick up trash but rather slows down to catch what piled up in the last day.

He has talked to local business owners who let him throw the garbage he collects into their dumpsters, and now as an official participant of ITD’s Adopt a Highway program, the department’s operations crews will help by collecting the bags from the roadside.

His unusually mobile setup has attracted a lot of attention.

“People are pulling over constantly to ask me what I’m doing,” White said. “Some even offer to help once they learn.”

A testament to his dedication, White’s daily trips also serve as reminder to us all to do our part in keeping communities clean and healthy.

Pet peeves, anonymous notes and 25 years

Sherry Mundt has a particular pet peeve. She doesn’t like trash, and she really doesn’t like seeing it next to highways.

Her 680-acre farm sits along US-95 just eight miles south of Coeur d’Alene. Situated along a major route for locals and waste management services, she has seen her fair share of waste pile up next to the road.

“I’d be driving to town or heading back home, and I’d notice trash,” Mundt said. “I’d be mentally picking it up while I drove.”

Mundt finds the litter bothersome, and she takes pride in her community. That’s why 25 years ago she became an active participant in the Adopt-A-Highway program—a branch of the Idaho Transportation Department that connects volunteers with supplies and services to reduce trash along highways.

Although Mundt tends to other sections, the one-mile stretch in front of her property is her primary focus. Twice a year she spends 30 hours removing 30-40 bags of litter from that section alone.

Robin Karsann, an Adopt-A-Highway coordinator for North Idaho, said volunteers like Mundt collect enough trash from the area to fill 20 residential garbage trucks every year.

“More than 2,000 volunteers gave nearly 5,000 hours last year,” Karsann said. “That is a significant savings and outstanding benefit to our community.”

Throughout the years, Mundt said she had her own community of cheerleaders. Motorists passing by would honk to show their support and crews with the Idaho Transportation Department would offer assistance.

Then five years ago a new form of support found its way to Mundt’s mailbox. Little notes of gratitude and gift cards signed by neighbors she had yet to meet appeared regularly after her semiannual cleaning sessions.

“I kept them because they were encouraging,” Mundt said. “I’d read them before I signed up for another couple of years. They inspired me to keep doing what I was doing.”

It was not until this last January that Mundt met those neighborhood supporters, Mike and Kathy Barnes from the Mica Flats area, at another community function.

“Turns out they would occasionally take their children out to pick up trash, too,” Mundt said. “They said they wanted their children to learn to be like me.”

Mundt, now in her early 60s, will resign from Adopt-A-Highway duties next April, but she said she does not doubt that her community will continue in her stead.

“The ongoing dedication of community members like Mundt who continue to help keep our highways clean year after year cannot be appreciated enough,” Karsann said.

For anyone who would like to adopt a stretch of highway, there are more than 100 miles still available in North Idaho. Interested volunteers may contact the Coeur d’Alene office at (208) 772-1200 or visit