Across the country, thousands of communities have signaled their commitment to keeping America beautiful by adopting stretches of highway and pledging to keep them litter-free. During the late 1980s, the New York State Department of Transportation re-assessed its priorities in view of a declining work force and a reduced operating budget. DOT’s first priority was then—and is now—to operate the state’s highways and bridges safely and costeffectively. As a result, fewer and fewer resources were available for roadside beautification, and New York was not the only state with that dilemma.
Legislation to formalize New York State’s Adopt-A-Highway Program was passed in 1990 to encourage individuals or groups to clean up highway roadsides and to recognize those volunteers who do. Participation in the program also fosters a sense of community ownership of the roadway as well as a sense of pride in its appearance. Adopters must obtain a Highway Work Permit from the New York State Department of Transportation and are asked to commit to picking up litter along their section—which is usually two miles long, but can vary—at least four times a year for two years. Community-spirited Gardiner organizations taking an active part in the Adopt-A-Highway Program include Tuthilltown Spirits and Distillery; Stone Wave Yoga; the Gardiner Fire Department; St. Charles Borromeo Church; Mountain Skills Climbing Guide; Colucci Shand Realty; and Hoot Owl.
Ever wonder what and/or who “Hoot Owl” is? It’s a very cool restaurant located very close to Gardiner (in Pine Bush). It was reincarnated from a restaurant of the same name that many old timers remember as a rough and tumble, seedy, local tavern where those interested in a drink leading to a fight went to imbibe. The building was originally constructed in 1856. At the time, the area was known as the Hamlet of DwaarsKill. The building served as the post office, the general store, and according to local lore, at one time functioned as the local brothel. It has been known as the Hoot Owl since 1947. The new owners, Arif Khan and Sabeen Hasan, reopened this community gathering place with the sole intention of making a warm, inviting place where guests could find really good food and really good people.
When asked why the Hoot Owl adopted a segment of Route 44/55 in Gardiner, Arif commented that he had always noticed the Adopt-a- Highway signs, and said, “We liked that the businesses that enroll in the program in this area have to actually clean the road themselves, rather than pay for State workers to do it, which is common in some other locales.”
Kathy Hart, Tuthilltown Spirits’ HR Manager said, “We’ve always been focused on green initiatives and environmental sustainability. One year ago, Tuthilltown was acquired by William Grant and Sons, whose core values are: Be Proud, Be Responsible, Be Sustainable, Be Professional, Be Entrepreneurial and Think Long Term. We will continue to participate in this program. We take pride in our community and appreciate the beauty that surrounds it.”
Many participants encourage community involvement in the clean-ups, making the events as fun and convivial as possible. The Hoot Owl offers $1- Off drink discounts for bags of trash, and free snacks to those who take part.
Thanks to all these amazing businesses and organizations, Gardiner has cleaner roads to drive, bike, run and walk on. Anyone interested in adopting should visit www.dot.ny.gov/programs/adopthighway. If you want to participate in clean-ups, check the various local organizations’ facebook pages for updates, or just go oldschool and give them a call.