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Local Court in Iowa Earns Governor’s Volunteer Award

Members in Iowa have been committed to keeping a part of Iowa Highway 3 litter-free for 17 years. Recently, this commitment earned them state-wide recognition.


In 2004, St. Francis 774 held a standard court meeting in Rickardsville, Iowa, and one of the attending members suggested that the court should participate in the state’s Adopt-A-Highway program. 17 years later, the court has now been recognized by the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) for its commitment to keeping a stretch of Iowa Highway 3 clean.

Eldon Wilgenbusch, who is currently the treasurer of St. Francis 774 and former Vice High Chief Ranger, spoke to Catholic Forester about gaining this recognition from the state. Eldon has coordinated St. Francis 774’s paperwork with the DOT every two years since 2004.

“We thought it was appropriate service to the community,” said Eldon. “And we’re a small town with only about 190 people.”

Studies have shown that there’s more litter on American roadways than one might assume. Research conducted in 2009 indicated that “more than 51 billion pieces of litter are released on American roadways each year - 6,729 items per mile of roadway annually, 91% of it less than 4 inches in size.”1

Usually six or eight members from St. Francis 774 participate in the clean-ups twice a year around April and October. They’ll split into two groups — one on each side the highway and walk the mile-long stretch picking up litter of all types.

“The court’s been doing this for quite a long time,” said Eldon. “It’s just part of what we do.”

The Iowa DOT will post a sign recognizing St. Francis 774’s effort to keep its small part of hilly northeast Iowa clean for road travelers.

“Most people think Iowa is just flat with corn and beans,” said Eldon. “But the whole eastern part of Iowa, especially near the river, is one of the more scenic areas of the state.”

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