Editor’s note: Amy Dabbs’ column will return in a few weeks. Meanwhile, her colleagues will write about Clemson Extension programs in the Lowcountry. Today, Angela Crouch will explore the Adopt-A-Highway program. In the next column, Guinn Garrett will write about floating wetlands/ pond management for home- owners.

BY ANGELA CROUCH

Special to The Post and Courier

South Carolina’s beautiful landscapes are among the state’s most precious natural resources.

With millions of tourists coming to our state each year, our scenic beauty is also an important economic resource.

According to the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, tourism pumps more than $15 billion into the state economy.

In the current economic climate, keeping South Carolina’s highways clean and beautiful should be a commitment for each of us.

The Adopt-A-Highway program in the state has been a remarkably successful program in combating litter along our highways since it was enacted in 1988 in Beaufort County.

This success comes from relying on individuals who genuinely care about the beauty of their state and want to take responsibility for enhancing that beauty.

The S.C. Adopt-A-Highway program provides an avenue for individuals, organizations or businesses to help maintain sections of the roadside within the state’s highway system.

Below is some information that can help you get started by showing how you can be part of something beautiful, too.

Getting started is easy! Any group that wants to join the effort must agree to adopt at least two miles of highway and participate in four cleanups per year.

A group leader must be chosen, and an “Adopt-A-Highway” agreement form must be submitted to the S.C. Department of Transportation and approved.

Trash bags, vests, important safety information and highway signs that recognize your group will be provided by DOT.

Businesses, churches, schools, civic organizations, and any other group of this kind can be part of this program.

Here are some guidelines:

Be sure to involve enough people so that pickups are manageable.

Solo adoptions are permitted for those comfortable picking up by themselves.

Youth participants should be at least 13.

Choose primary or secondary roads that have fairly low traffic volumes.

Do not consider interstate highways or freeways, as these are not included in the program for obvious safety reasons.

To get started, the group will gather at the site on a scheduled time on Saturday. After group leaders review safety rules with everyone, the participants will pick up and bag litter along the right of way.

Collected litter is left on the site for pickup by DOT personnel the following week.

Groups that participate in the Adopt-A-Highway program are providing an invaluable service to the state by removing millions of pounds of litter from the state’s roadways.

“The tremendous success of the Adopt-A-Highway program would not be possible without the dedication and enthusiasm of volunteers across Charleston County,” said Donna Gueldner, chair of Community Pride Inc. of Charleston County.

In 2012, across Charleston County, four major cleanups were conducted in February, May, September and November. About 170 groups participated, accounting for 2,032 volunteers.

An estimated 51,250 pounds of litter were removed from 342 miles of state- maintained roadsides.

Volunteers donated 3,967 hours in an effort to make their communities more aesthetically pleasing.

Based on the 2011 estimated dollar value of volunteer time, at $21.79 per hour, this provided a savings of more than $80,000 to our state and local governments.

The Adopt-A-Highway program in Charleston County received the S.C. DOT Outstanding Achievement Award for adding 12 new groups during the year.

The county also received recognition as the recipient of the Adopt-A-Highway Recycling Initiative Award.

In Charleston County, Adopt-A-Highway is managed by Community Pride, an organization sponsored by the Clemson Cooperative Extension Service.

The county program will hold its next litter cleanup on May 4. In the event of bad weather, the cleanup will be held May 11.

To be part of the Adopt-A-Highway program in Charleston County, contact Angela Crouch at 722-5940, ext. 112, or acrouch@ clemson.edu.

In Berkeley County, email Kimberly Timmons at ktimmons@bcwsa.com.

In Dorchester County, email Jennifer Gruber at gruberjd@scdot.org.

Angela Crouch is a Clemson Extension agent in the Charleston County office. She is the coordinator of Community Pride Inc. of Charleston County.