A clean sweep | AspenTimes.com

A clean sweep

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

Scanning for litter Saturday along Highway 82 from Aspen to El Jebel, there was a discarded rug near the airport, an old boot near Shale Bluffs, and some blowing papers here and there. But, according Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) officials, area roads are in good shape thanks to volunteers with the Adopt-A-Highway programs who lift more trash than anywhere else in Colorado.”We have some wonderful programs in place to help us keep Colorado highways clean,” said CDOT Executive Director Russell George in a prepared statement. “Thanks to the dedication of our Adopt-A-Highway volunteers and the support of our corporate sponsors, we have continually been able to remove more litter from our highways each year.”CDOT maintenance crews and volunteer groups picked up enough trash on highways statewide in 2006 to fill 35,850 dump trucks.In the Grand Junction area, which includes Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley, CDOT crews picked up 25,618 cubic yards of garbage, which was the third highest amount of the eight maintenance areas statewide.Our area topped the list of volunteers, however. Grand Junction Adopt-A-Highway crews removed 1,753 cubic yards, the highest amount in the state, according to CDOT.”I actually have a fanatical aversion to trash,” said Aspenite Gracia Madrigal. She and her husband have been cleaning up a section of Highway 82 near Woody Creek for the past three years.A regular bus rider when the couple lived in El Jebel, Madrigal was frustrated by the amount of trash she saw on the highway.”We live in such a beautiful place and people let it get crappy,” she said. So she contacted CDOT in Glenwood and took on the project.”It’s wonderful to be outside,” Madrigal said. She and her husband get out most weekends in warmer months, always wearing “safety orange” vests.CDOT provides garbage bags – Madrigal picks them up at the CDOT facility in Glenwood Springs – and when she collects trash along the roadside, she simply leaves the bags there and CDOT maintenance crews pick them up.”I love it when I see other groups out,” she said of companies or organizations that make the cleanup a regular field day. “I think that’s fabulous.”Madrigal also hopes people will be more conscientious, especially when driving with open loads to the Pitkin County Landfill near Woody Creek. “I don’t think people consciously dump litter. I think there’s so much construction stuff that people don’t secure in their trucks,” she said. “I don’t think a lot of stuff makes it up that hill.”Madrigal went on to cite Jungian theory, which says people become more altruistic at a certain point in life. “This could be my thing,” she said.Other Adopt-A-Highway volunteers near Aspen include: Earth Wireless, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority employees, John Denver’s Windstar Foundation, Curves for Women of Basalt, Community Banks of Aspen, employees of the St. Regis Aspen, and Mike Fondo, who runs a corn-blasting and sandblasting business and lives in El Jebel.”When I drive upvalley I like it to look good,” said Fondo, who has been cleaning a section of Highway 82 for the last two years. He admits his service is a cross between altruism and advertising – volunteers are honored in a sign along the section they’re responsible for – but said he likes to see the results, especially on the stretch of road near his home.”I know that section between El Jebel and Aspen is definitely the cleanest,” Fondo said, and he believes that is because of “the trash-conscious community we live in.”Unlike other communities where litter is a big problem, Fondo said he rarely sees people throwing things out their car windows in the valley.”Our community happens to be pretty clean,” he said.CDOT officials agree.”This maintenance section has the most adopt-the-highway groups out of all eight maintenance sections,” Mindy Crane, a CDOT spokesperson, wrote in an e-mail.Nearly 900 miles of area roads have been adopted by 362 groups in the Grand Junction area; there are still 1,124 miles available for adoption.CDOT officials say adopting groups agree to pick up litter a minimum of four times each year along designated one- to two-mile sections of road.To volunteer for a section of area highway, visit http://www.dot.state.co.us/AdoptAHighway/ or call 970-947-9361.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com

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