The mark of true warriors is that they never give up
Verde Valley AZ (January 29, 2013) – Vietnam veteran Gary Chamberlain, 66, plus many others like him from Cornville, Arizona, continue their war against those that litter our Sedona and Verde Valley highways.
Despite every obstacle, Chamberlain leads from the front and is hoping that institutional support for this effort will improve and achieve attention as being the best Adopt-A-Highway program in the nation!
“Our results are going to be submitted and hand carried to all major media organizations in New York and Arizona in February or March of 2013 as our efforts were recognized by two New York organizations in 2011,” Chamberlain said.
In 2009, Chamberlain and a few others known as the “Road Warriors” began their campaign that is in its fourth year to maintain and patrol a 30-mile stretch of highway connecting Sedona, Cottonwood and Camp Verde.
The “Road Warriors” morphed into Chamberlain’s business known as “Folksville USA” that his wife has defined as a very expensive hobby.
The hope is that this virtual town of Folksville USA consisting of real people will become the role models for the Arizona Adopt-A-Highway program and the nation’s 49 other programs.
“If Kentucky can have a 400 mile long garage sale why can’t Arizona establish the longest consecutive miles of Adopt-A-Highway groups? Guinness Book of World Records, why not?” states Chamberlain.
“What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve as the saying goes and nothing ventured, nothing gained” are slogans Chamberlain says he is haunted with.
In 2009 Chamberlain and his friend Rick Baldauf became aggravated at the trash on Scenic Route 89A as they rode their bikes from Cottonwood and Sedona.
“Our ride was ruined from seeing all of the trash on the highway, un-mowed grass and brush in the bike lanes and over the guard rail,” Chamberlain said. “This condition presented an unfavorable condition for Rick and I. This could be one of the most beautiful rides in the country for locals and tourists if it wasn’t marred by the items that folks toss or lose trash and other items out the back of their vehicles. “
What value do the Scenic Highway, Don’t Litter and Load Cover Signs have?”
Chamberlain and the Adopt-A-Highway groups try to stay ahead of those that litter by filling 1,000’s of 33-gallon trash bags with packaging boxes complete with addresses on them, construction materials, alcohol and soda containers, sheets of plastic, correspondence and many other potential identity theft items such as valid credit cards, bank statements and social security cards.
“We try to provide an unblemished experience for those who travel daily between the cities and visit our area to include our local residents,” Chamberlain said. “Littering is the enemy and a multi-faceted effort by local residents, businesses, state governments and parents would go far in eradicating or reducing the trash on our highways.”
He believes elevating public awareness to the littering problem is a first step.
“Education is the big issue, does this topic get covered in our schools?” he asks. “Until there is education, awareness and participation taught in the home, schools, churches, newspapers, television, radio shows we will never conquer littering of any kind and we will only burn our volunteers. I have been contacted by volunteers that are part of a Sedona group that are giving up on ever conquering the litter issues and are giving up, we can’t afford to lose these folks and I defiantly know how they feel.”
He said that entire communities need to get involved in this effort and do something,
“Just quit talking about it! There are opportunities for every resident of a community to get involved through phone calls, editorials, fund- raising, highway-litter recovery participation and recycling. Trash makes us all look bad,” Chamberlain said.
“Yavapai County’s mayors and County Supervisors should champion the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Adopt-A-Highway (AAH) program by recognizing AAH groups that participate in their municipality by name, not just as a group of volunteers,” he continued. “These groups could easily be recognized for their honoring the three times per year required for this taxpayer funded program and the records showing whose been honoring this commitment is available through the ADOT Risk Manager by requesting the ‘Activity Reports.’”
He said, “Those with their names on the AAH signs have signed a contract with ADOT and the taxpayers of Arizona to keep the stretch of adopted highway clean in exchange for two highway signs bearing their name. He said too many groups don’t comply with their pledge to the taxpayer . Are these groups and organizations good role models?”
“We must realize that the ‘Broken Window Theory’ that foretells the economic decline of neighborhoods also applies to our business communities,”he said. “The trash seen on the highways has an impact on tourism, new and existing residents, new and existing businesses and existing employment opportunities.”
“Local businesses benefit from the efforts of the AAH groups and these businesses should consider donating financially or with products as a reward to clean-up participants. The fast-food and bottling industries should seize this opportunity to reward the AAH groups for picking up the litter that their customers spread all over our highways. In 2012, the Cottonwood McDonalds and Folksville USA rewarded the Cottonwood Boys and Girls Club for picking up 20 bags of litter with $200.”
Chamberlain says, “Clean highways benefit everyone. Visitors get a sense of our communities by what they see, will they drive past Sedona, the Verde Valley and Arizona based on what they see?”
Chamberlain has come up with numerous creative ideas to get youth involved and compensated them for their efforts. “Local businesses, youth groups and AAH groups would promote “BagReadyJobs” and “Cash4Trash” programs funded by the businesses and residents.
The funds could be paid to the youth-based groups, clubs and organization at a rate of $10 for every 33 gallon bag of trash they recover. To be part of this fund raising activity these organizations would ask for donations to be paid after proof of a service rendered. Groups would be required to provide the donor a copy of the ADOT AAH“Activity Report”, 500 word essay describing their experience, what they learned and a group photograph.
This is what five members of the Cottonwood Boys and Girls Club did to claim $200 for four hours work.
“In the Verde Valley we have had Folksville USA “Leap Frog” litter recovery events on the third Saturday of February, May, August and November. We try to displayed the ADOT blue bags for several days for education, awareness and recognition purposes,” he said. “All people have to do to see the fruits of our labor is to take notice of how clean Scenic Route 89A and Hwy 260 remain.”
To put things in perspective, Chamberlain rifled off some figures.
“As of 2012 and 2013 I am under-funded for all of the blue and now strictly orange 33-gallon bags I have personally filled,” he said. “That’s 116 bags and a projected additional 100 bags by the time I finish cleaning the median between Cottonwood and Sedona by the first week of February 2013. In the past five days of cleaning the two miles of median between Cottonwood and Camp Verde I picked up 90 bags of trash and several large items. During 2012 and 2013, I picked up 643 bags of litter that would otherwise have remained on the scenic route. Imagine what the stretch between Sedona, Cottonwood and Camp Verde would look like if that garbage was still there.”
He said he needs an influx of funding for his personal effort to take the war against litter to the next level and that he wants to see real backing from those that benefit the most from his efforts or those that work independently of him.
“I will be seeking funding for my Folksville USA’s effort to advance those that choose to make a difference,” he said. “The future of our efforts to keep Hwy 89A and Hwy 260 clean will be determined by those that can fund all of us looking for support. Those of us on the front line of the war against litter should be compensated and not have to work for free, volunteerism only goes so far, more and more are burned out! We cannot enable those that trash our scenic route, our highways and our country to continue doing so while good-hearted volunteers and unappreciated volunteers like us bear the burden.”
Chamberlain does not want to platitudes for his efforts, he wants results and more support for those that restore the beauty to “America the Beautiful” and make your community look as good as it does.
“The most discouraging words I hear are ‘Good job, keep it up,’” he said. “When I ask for donations, many just give a blank stare. I along with the Adopt-A-Highway groups need more support from the cities and businesses we serve. Without it, we will never reach our full potential.”
Anyone wishing to contact Chamberlain may do so by calling (928) 202-1186 or FolksvilleUSA@gmail.com. He suggests you Google “Folksville USA” and determine if you wish to reward his or any of the many Adopt-A-Highway groups in our area. Chamberlain has the contact information for most of 50 Adopt-A-Highway groups in our area if you wish to contact them.
“For our highways to be more than marginally clean it will take a “WE” effort, are you part of this “we” experience?” asks Chamberlain. For the past three years the third Saturday of February, May, August and November have been our featured “Leap Frog” litter events where we try to encourage all Adopt-A-Highway groups to strut their stuff and invite others to join them, will you be there or continue to expect someone else to spend the 8-10 hours per year to do it?” asks Chamberlain.
Anyone wishing to contact Chamberlain may do so by calling (928) 202-1186 or FolksvilleUSA@gmail.com or writing him at Folksville USA, PO Box 1138, Cornville, AZ 86325. He suggests you Google “Folksville USA” and determine if you wish to reward his or any of the many Adopt-A-Highway groups in our area. Chamberlain has the contact information for most of 50 Adopt-A-Highway groups in our area if you wish to contact them.