Minnesota is home to (more than) 10,000 lakes.  It's also home to many miles of highways - more than 135,000 miles worth to be exact. And with those highways come roadsides that can often start to accumulate trash and debris.

In an effort to clean things up, the Minnesota Department of Transportation started the Adopt A Highway program in 1990.  The main objective of the service program was to remove that trash from the sides of Minnesota's highways and - at the same time - take some of that work load off of state transportation crews, so that they would have more time to work on actually building, repairing, and maintaining them.

To say that the program has been a success would be an understatement.  Each year, the Adopt A Highway program helps to keep Minnesota's roadsides looking like they should.

2021 continued the successful results and accomplishments.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation recently released details about the program from last year.  Here are just a few of the summarized stand-outs:

  • 70,000 collective hours were volunteered to the Adopt A Highway program
  • 29,500-plus bags of trash were collected by those volunteers across the state of Minnesota.
  • 1,500 Adopt A Highway volunteer groups took part in the service program

Thousands of volunteers participated.  For the most part, each of those 1,500 volunteer groups had more than one person participating in them.  Extrapolating that out, it's easy to see how large a number of people helped in the efforts - even if determining an exact number would be (near) impossible.

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For their part, officials with the Minnesota Department of Transportation have nothing but positive accolades to give to their volunteers.  Ann McLellan, the Statewide Adopt A Highway Manager explains:

"We can't thank our Adopt A Highway volunteers enough for the service they provide our state and would love to have more groups on our team.  Volunteers not only help to keep Minnesota roadsides clean, but their work allows our MNDOT crews to focus on other tasks that help keep highways safe.  It's a win-win for all involved."

Even with the large number of volunteers involved in the program, there is room for more people.  According to MNDOT, "more than 800 highway sections [remain] available for adoption". In fact, 830 sections are open and available for adoption.

Groups who want to volunteer can visit the Minnesota Department of Transportation's Adopt A Highway website.  The site lists local program coordinators.  Volunteers are asked to commit to the program for at least two years and pick up litter on both sides of their roadway section at least twice a year.  The average length of an adopted roadway is two miles.

So what can you expect if you volunteer?

The Minnesota Department of Transportation provides the items you need.  Participants will get safety training, trash bags, and safety vests.  Volunteers fill the bags with the collected trash, and maintenance crews those bags up that are left along the side of the road.

One benefit for volunteer groups is that the state provides a sign posted along the adopted road section which identifies the group involved.

One final note about the Adopt A Highway program:  MNDOT urges drivers who approach road areas where crews are collecting trash to exercise caution.  Slow down.  Move over.

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