Adopt-a-city-street program takes off
Everyone has heard of Adopt-a-Highway programs, which tap resident efforts to clean up highway litter. Now, Oklahoma City has brought the concept home with an Adopt-a-City-Street Program. Run by the city’s Public Works Department, the program has attracted more than 50 groups, a number that translates into about 50 miles of cleaner streets.
Before the program began in 1998, the department received offers from residents and organizations to help clean city streets. It gave the volunteers a roll of trash bags, put them to work and thanked them for their time. Becky Durrett, an assistant for the department, and other city officials decided that it was time to start an official program.
The first step was collecting information from cities like Phoenix, Chicago and Seattle, which had Adopt-a-City-Street plans in place. Durrett learned how those cities administered their programs, what kind of resources they allotted to them and how they promoted them.
To implement the plan, the Oklahoma City Public Works Department worked with the city’s attorneys to develop an application and safety release form. Then, the department created a logo, an introductory pamphlet and recognition signs. It also worked with the Traffic Division to set up a system of placing orange barrels where pick-ups take place, and it collaborated with the Solid Waste Department to develop a pick-up schedule for the trash. Additionally, the Public Works Department promoted the program with inserts in the city’s utility bills.
Volunteers are encouraged to adopt at least one mile of a city street and perform a trash pickup at least four times each year for a minimum of two years. Sometimes, volunteers go a step further by planting trees and flowers, painting over graffiti or performing drain stencil work.
The city provides volunteers with trash bags, reflective vests and traffic barrels, and it requires volunteers to attend a safety training meeting. Groups receive certificates, and Adopt-a-City-Street recognition signs are placed at the beginning of each organization’s adopted mile.
The city has had positive feedback from residents, Durrett says. “Sometimes they stop and say thank you or honk and wave, which is heartwarming,” she says. “Of course, we’d prefer it if they would stay and help clean up.”