Detroit Lakes' Noon Rotary has been part of MnDOT's 30-year-old Adopt-A-Highway program since it began

Detroit Lakes' Noon Rotary Club has been a part of the Minnesota Department of Transportation's Adopt-A-Highweay program since its beginnings 30 years ago.

Volunteers from the Detroit Lakes Noon Rotary Club work to clean a stretch of ditch along the south side of Highway 10, just east of town, on Thursday, Sept. 3. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

It's been 30 years since the Minnesota Department of Transportation began its Adopt-A-Highway program, seeking to clean the garbage and travel debris from roadway ditches across the state — and Detroit Lakes' Noon Rotary Club has been part of it almost since day one.

Every March and September since 1990, local Rotarians have been cleaning up ditches on both sides of the two-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 10 between mile markers 48 and 50, just east of Detroit Lakes.

Between 20 and 30 volunteers gathered along both sides of that two-mile stretch on Thursday, Sept. 3, at 5 p.m., and the work was done in less than an hour.

"We usually get about 30 bags collected," said Noon Rotarian Adrienne Buboltz, who has been helping to coordinate the project since its inception. "Then we have to call the state (i.e., MnDOT) to say how many bags there are, and they come and pick them up."


Buboltz said the amount of trash the volunteers have picked up has remained pretty consistent over the past three decades, with items collected ranging from the commonplace — used beer and soda cans, plastic water bottles, fast food containers and cigarette butts — to the slightly bizarre, like discarded underwear and even the occasional firearm.

"One time I found what looked like a gun — I left it there and I called the cops," she added, noting that the Rotarians do the same thing if they find discarded drugs or associated paraphernalia, marking the area where they found it so law enforcement can locate the dangerous items more easily. "We also get an awful lot of construction stuff that has fallen off of trucks."

Though the group of volunteers would often get together for a drink or light supper after a cleanup session, they didn't do that this past Thursday, due to pandemic constraints. "Maybe next time," Buboltz said.

More about Adopt-A-Highway

Minnesota's Adopt-A-Highway program began in 1990, after then-Gov. Rudy Perpich visited Texas to speak with Lady Bird Johnson about that state’s anti-litter campaign, called “Don’t Mess with Texas.”

Last year, more than 3,800 volunteer groups, ranging from four to 25 people, spent an estimated 272,000 hours cleaning roadway ditches, picking up 40,000 bags of trash across Minnesota. This translates into an estimated $7 million in realized benefit for the state. Of the current roster of volunteers, 475 groups have been with the program all 30 years.

“The Adopt-A-Highway program is proof that Minnesotans care about their state,” said Ann McLellan, statewide Adopt-A-Highway manager. “Volunteers picking up litter along our roadways also allows our MnDOT crews to focus on other work, like repairing guardrail, mowing and keeping highways safe. It is a win-win situation for all involved."

Volunteers are asked to commit to the program for at least two years and pick up litter on both sides of the roadway a minimum of twice a year. The average length of an adopted roadway is two miles.

MnDOT provides volunteers with safety training, including new COVID-19 guidelines, as well as trash bags and safety vests. The agency also picks up the filled bags of litter, and posts signs along the adopted segments of roads with the names of the volunteer groups.


“We still have more than 630 segments available for adoption. Most of those areas are in Greater Minnesota, but we also have many open sections in the Twin Cities as well,” said McLellan.

For more information about MnDOT’s program, visit .

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