Commuters may notice that the northbound 710 Freeway between Wardlow Road and Del Amo Boulevard is especially clean recently. That’s because local small business owner Carolyn Kirkpatrick and her family are picking up trash on that portion of the freeway through the Caltrans Adopt-A-Highway program.

“It was really scary the first time because we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into,” Kirkpatrick said of cleaning the area around the 710 with her nieces, Nia and Nya Johnson, nephew Jacob Davis and fellow colleagues from her business TPxD Movement.

“We made sure we knew every rule and regulation so we could be safe,” she said. “Then once we did it was really easy. … I don’t think people realize how much trash is on the highway.”

The Caltrans Adopt-A-Highway program, which started in 1989, allows individuals, organizations or businesses to help maintain sections of roadsides. The program now has incentives through Governor Gavin Newsom’s $1.1 billion Clean California initiative.

Adopt-A-Highway stipends include $250 for adopted highway segments and $250 for ramps and quads. More information is available at Kirkpatrick added that anyone interested in volunteering on her section of the freeway can email her at [email protected].

“I saw the opportunity (in 2021) and it was during COVID so I also wanted my nieces and nephews to get out of the house, “ Kirkpatrick said. “CalTrans gave us everything we needed like materials and safety training. My niece, Nia, actually enjoys making sure that everyone is safe. When we’re out there picking up trash, she’s the one facing the traffic and making sure we’re aware that cars are coming.”

Nia and Jacob are both 17 and just graduated high school. Nya is 19 and is in college studying computer science.

“I like to help out the earth,” Nya Johnson said. “As human beings, we litter a lot and put a lot of debris on the earth. It feels good to give back and clean up.”

Kirkpatrick, who was born and raised in Long Beach, said the honking horns of support from drivers on the freeway has really made a difference in the way picking up trash feels.

“So many more people should get involved,” she said. “We always find crazy things out there. We’ve found class pictures and baby pictures. Do they know this is out here? I think if people can see the before-and-after pictures after picking up that litter, it can encourage them and make them feel better. You have to do it in order to feel it.”

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