Cleaning up highways is Cornville man's mission - FOX 35 News Orlando

Cleaning up highways is Cornville man's mission

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You could call it a crusade -- an Arizona man so disgusted with all the garbage strewn about our state highways, he's doing something about it.

He's on a mission to clean it up, with or without the state's help.

"As a grumpy old 65-year-old veteran can ride a bike on the highway and walk down the highway, I can go pick up trash on the highway," says Gary Chamberlain.

Gary Chamberlain lives in Cornville, near Sedona. And this wounded Vietnam veteran is now at war with the people who trash our highways.

"I'd like to, I just can't accept these gifts, they are just too generous."

For the last four years, Gary and his fellow veterans have been picking up trash.

"Local business in the area gave me $2,000 for $10 a bag."

Chamberlain is the point man for Folksville, USA, and besides picking up trash himself, he says he's figured out a way to make the state's Adopt-A-Highway program work.

"I went to the local businesses and there are seven of them who pledged $100 each, pledged, didn't give to me but pledged to any youth group club or organization to go pick up 20 bags of trash at $5 a bag."

In rural areas, companies or individuals get their name on these Adopt-A-Highway signs -- you've seen them -- in exchange they are supposed to pick up trash alongside the highway three times or more per year.

Chamberlain did a little research on a stretch of 89-A near Cottonwood and made a dismal discovery.

"We found out that only 25 percent of the groups out there were honoring their commitment to the program."

By recruiting youth groups and community activists to do the work, Chamberlain has seen a big improvement.

"Those 30 groups now are honoring their commitment to the program 90 percent of the time," he says.

The Arizona Department of Transportation oversees the Adopt-A-Highway program, and Chamberlain blames ADOT for its failures.

"ADOT in my opinion, this is my opinion, does not want this program to succeed because it's going to mean more work for them. They are going to have to mow the highways, prune the brush to make it safe for those people willing to show up three times a year or more and then pick up the garbage bags."

Chamberlain wants the program to work statewide. But he showed us that it's not.

"We are finding these reflectors left by a subcontractor for ADOT, they have been thrown out into the bushes on 89-A between Cottonwood and Sedona, and now I am finding them between Camp Verde and Phoenix."

We asked the ADOT about Chamberlain's claims -- it politely declined comment.

But over the Thanksgiving weekend, Chamberlain's group thanked the Flagstaff ADOT district, which mowed and cut brush for the Folksville USA clean up event.

"I don't want to destroy nor do we want to destroy the Adopt-A-Highway program, but we want one that works, if we have a taxpayer program it needs to work."

The group's February 16th cleanup is targeting 50 miles of Arizona highway, and Chamberlain hopes the state and cleanup volunteers will continue to work together.

"I would love to work with ADOT and the Adopt-A-Highway program so we become the leaders and not an embarrassment in the Adopt-A-Highway program."

To learn more:

Folksville USA

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