Learn how to become a volunteer Adopt-a-Highway crew.
Signing up is easy. Contact the coordinator for the area you are interested in and they will let you know what is available. Adoption areas are generally two miles in length. Once you have been accepted as a volunteer group, you will be responsible for picking up litter as outlined in your agreement, and your group's name will be placed on the AAH sign at the location for recognition. The standard agreement length is four years, but can be extended or canceled. Some volunteer groups have been participating in the program for decades and take great pride in their service to Washington state.
If you are interested in doing more, such as landscaping work, ask your area coordinator about additional opportunities for your section of highway.
Your group will need to complete an Application for AAH Volunteer Group (PDF 121KB). Each participant must complete and sign an AAH Participant Registration Form (PDF 55KB) before participating in a pick-up activity with your group.
Picking a name
We install signs for your adopted section of highway to provide recognition of your group. We do not put messages on these signs, so please choose a name for your sign. Most groups either use their family name or organization name. You may also choose to have your sign read "in memory of" a loved one. You may not put a logo on the sign. If you want a logo, you will have to become a sponsor, and you will not be able to do the cleanup yourself. See the sponsor section for more information on becoming a sponsor.
All signs can support up to three lines of text. Signs for two-lane highways use 3" letters and can have up to 13 characters per line. Signs for larger highways and freeways use 4" letters and can have up to 14 characters per line.
We need to keep track of how often every group does litter pick-up. To do this, your group needs to either use the Online Activity Report or mail a Participant Activity Report to your area coordinator. Reporting also allows us to maintain insurance coverage for our volunteers by providing documentation of participation, and meets our reporting requirements for the program.
If you separate out recyclable materials, we will recycle it. Any income generated from recycled materials goes to your group.
Volunteer help is greatly appreciated, but safety is our number one concern, and it is our - and your - number one job. The Adopt-a-Highway program has an outstanding safety record, and we would like to keep it that way.
All groups are required to watch our New Volunteer Safety Training Video and read through our Safety Tips before picking up litter, and are required to use safety gear - provided by us - while working alongside the highway. We provide safety vests, hard hats, traffic signs, and temporary strobe lights for vehicles.
If you have any questions about safety, do not hesitate to contact your area coordinator.
These safety guidelines are to help you to stay safe while working on the side of the highway.
- Wear appropriate clothing, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). It is important to make yourself visible to the traveling public, and to protect yourself from the conditions you will be working in. Required PPE includes safety vest, hard hat, gloves, long pants, and thick-soled shoes or boots. A long sleeve shirt is highly recommended, as you may be reaching through heavy brush or picking up large objects. Dress appropriately for both the weather and the terrain.
- Have a first aid kit and someone trained in basic first aid. You may be in an area not easy to respond to in case of an emergency, or may not need emergency services for a minor injury. Having a first aid kit available and someone trained in basic first aid can make a big difference. The first aid kit should be sized for the crew and include location information for your work site and any additional emergency phone numbers that may be needed.
- Conduct a safety review before heading to the site. All crews are required to view our safety video before picking up litter for the first time, and should re-watch the video periodically or any time new members join the crew. You will need to have and adult supervisor for every eight crew members who are minors (15 to 18 years of age). Go over the pre-activity safety plan and ensure all crew members understand it. Make sure that you have all of your PPE and warning devices (signs, cones, and lights) and that they are in good condition. Make sure that everyone knows the route from the site to the nearest hospital, and to a nearby location where you could meet emergency responders in case they can't get to you. Make sure everyone has water available.
- Carpool to the site, and pull all vehicles as far off of the road as possible. There isn't always a lot of room to park in some areas, so fewer vehicles means less space needed - no more than two vehicles is preferred. Any vehicles need to be as far from the travel lanes as possible, for your safety and the safety of others using the highway. Blocking shoulders can also make travel more difficult for bicycles and pedestrians. No more than two wheels should be on the paved shoulder if a vehicle cannot be parked fully off the pavement.
- Set up your work site before starting. Place your warning sign and cones in advance of your work area, and park a buffer vehicle with warning beacon ahead of where you will be working. The second vehicle should be parked closer to the work area in case of emergency.
- Use care when picking up material. Always be aware of your surroundings. You are working on the side of a highway, which means you need to pay attention to traffic along with your immediate environment. Watch your footing, and stay off of rocky, steep, or unstable slopes. Keep an eye out for plants and insects that may cause injury or issues, such as blackberries, poison ivy, poison oak, bees, and wasps. Walk single file across bridges and do not cross the roadway on foot - drive around and park on the other side of the roadway if you need to work over there. Carry a box for broken glass and other sharp objects (do not pick up needles). And above all else, take care of yourself - drink plenty of water, use sunscreen, and rest when needed.
Additional things to remember for your safety:
- Do not use headphones that will not allow you to hear shouted warnings or sirens. You may use headphones or ear plugs, but you must still be able to hear anyone trying to alert you of danger.
- Do not engage in horseplay or pranks, as these may endanger yourself, your crewmates, or the travelling public.
- Do not cross the roadway on foot. Use a vehicle and drive around to the other side of the roadway, and park on that shoulder. Turn off warning beacons while driving, and make legal turns. You may not use median U-turns if they are posted with No U-Turn signs.
- Do not pick up litter that is on the roadway, on bridges, or in tunnels. Our crews will handle this material.
- Do not compact trash bags. Trying to compress bags may result in injury from any sharp objects that may be inside, or cause the bag to burst.
- Do not pick up syringes, hypodermic needles, dead animals, or suspected toxic or hazardous materials.
- Do not carry any blades such as knives, machetes, axes, etc. If you fall, these may injure you or a crewmate.
- Do not pick up anything that is extremely heavy or immobile.
For hazardous materials, dead animals, or heavy/immobile objects, mark the location and notify us - our crews will come remove the object(s). A bright piece of tape or material, such as pink surveyor's tape, works great and can usually be found at your local hardware or home improvement store.
Additional important information
The area you have adopted will be based on highway mileposts. Highway mileposts, or mile markers, are those small green signs on the side of the highway with the word "MILE" and a number. The number tells how many miles from that point to the beginning of the highway. Mileposts always start at the west end of the highway for east-west highways, and at the south end for north-south highways, so the numbers get bigger as you move east or north. The mile markers will help you to locate your adopted section of highway if your sign has not been installed or is missing.
We provide safety vests, hard hats, traffic signs, and temporary strobe lights for vehicles. How this equipment is handled depends on your supporting WSDOT office. Some offices check the equipment out to the volunteer group when they first start, and the group keeps the equipment with them. Other offices loan the equipment out each time the volunteer group goes out, and the equipment is returned at the end of the day. Your area coordinator will let you know which arrangement applies.
Please keep in mind that we do not provide gloves or pick-up sticks. These can be purchased at most hardware or home improvement stores.
Date and time restrictions
For your safety, and the safety of others, we only allow pick-up during daylight hours. We also do not allow litter clean-up on holidays due to increased volumes of traffic on the highways, and may also restrict certain hours of the day for the same reason. We encourage pick-up activities to occur on typical weekends or during mid-day hours during the week.