By cleaning up what local Forest Service employees affectionately call "The Green Mile" they kicked off their ninth year of participating in the state of Alaska's Adopt-A-Highway program and celebrated Earth Day a little early, Friday.
Local Forest Service employees adopted a stretch of scenic state highway between Juneau and the Mendenhall Glacier as a public service project and a morale builder.
The first cleanup of the year is always the worst, according to Forest Service Adopt-A-Highway coordinator Ray Massey. This year's was the worst he's seen it since the agency began cleanups.
"We picked up two, eight-foot pickup-sized loads of bags and debris in one mile," Massey said. "Everything from the front end of car, tag included, to credit cards and health insurance cards from a woman who lost her purse two months ago."
The Forest Service returned the cards, but not the front end of the car, Massey said.
It took 15 employees from the Forest Service Regional Office and Juneau Ranger District four hours to complete the task. As the group gathered to turn in their safety vests, Massey gave each of them a $10 gift card to a local sandwich shop, donated by the Forest Service Woocheen Committee. The Committee supports Regional Office employee internal communications and morale, and encourages employee community service.
Many local groups participate in Juneau's annual spring cleanup, but groups that clean up sections of highway have a bigger obligation. The State's Adopt-A-Highway program calls for an organization to agree to pickup one to three miles of highway, three times a year, for three years.
"One down, two to go," Massey said. "The next two cleanups are never as bad as the first pick up of the year."
Massey said he will have to think of something very special for the cleanup crews next year. After all, it will be their 10th anniversary in the Adopt-A-Highway program.