Batteries. Coffee cups. Construction debris. Lids for coffee cups. Plastic bags. Fast food wrappers. Lots and lots of cigarette butts. These items represent the vast majority of things that are deposited on the side of Highway 101 in our beautiful town by drivers and others.
This is litter. This is trash. This is harmful to the environment and ugly to look at.
The Oregon portion of Highway 101 offers unparalleled scenery and views of the ocean. Outside of a couple of sections, the Pacific itself is never far from the road and there are nearly 100 state parks along the 363 miles of the Oregon 101.
Our wonderful area is no different with scenic views of the mountains and an ocean breeze that nestles the highway travelers. If you’re lucky you may even see some of our famous Roosevelt Elk as you travel north or southbound on Highway 101.
In 2016, the Oregon Department of Transportation released some astounding numbers on traffic flow in this area. Their report indicated that nearly 7,000 vehicles travel Highway 101 in Clatsop County each day! And that astounding number is only accurate for the month of January! ODOT figures that number swells in the Summer months to more than 10,000 vehicles daily.
That’s a lot of traffic, a lot of people and, unfortunately, a lot of litter. The litter is a problem.
Twice a year, the Seaside Rotary Club gathers to help fix this problem. The club gathers on a Saturday and divides up the Highway 101 from the 24th Avenue bridge on the north side of town all the way to the Avenue U intersection on the South.
Club members patrol the east and west side of the highway and pick up the litter that has been dumped over the previous six months. You may see club members in bright orange vests and pickers or see some of the bright yellow bags that are filled up and picked up by ODOT after the event. In past experiences, the club has filled 20-25 bags of trash from that area alone.
I experience incredibly contrasting emotions whenever I participate in this highway cleanup. There is always sadness that so many people think so little of our community and environment that they drop their trash out of their window, without reservation it seems.
Clean up efforts that occur in any public space are challenging and costly. Litter is a threat to the beauty of our area but it’s also a threat to public health and the plants that fight for survival near the heavily traveled road.
As dryer months approach, I hope to get reacquainted with my old practice of riding my bike to work. I love the experience of making it the few miles in just a few more minutes than it took for me to drive and it’s especially gratifying on those high traffic days when biking may actually beat driving.
Call it bad luck but last year I had a string of misfortune when I collected three flat tires in just one week! Glass, a nail and a construction staple all contributed to the flat tires. Those experiences left me frustrated that so many people don’t take extra time to ensure that their debris and rubbish ends up in the right spot.
But I’m also deeply impressed with the resolution and nobleness of the Seaside Rotarians. They gather, rain or shine, to perform this act of service for our community. This year we’ll be joined by some local businesses that have highway frontage and recognize the importance of this work.
You don’t have to be too bright to recognize the value of a first impression and for many the impression of our area is first had from what they can see on the highway. Here’s to hoping that view of the highway is a bit less cluttered thanks to the Rotary Club of Seaside.
Skyler Archibald is the executive director of the Sunset Empire Park & Recreation District and a member of the Rotary Club of Seaside.