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AYC Volunteers to the Rescue!

By Greg Romano

“Carefree Highway, you’ve seen better days …”

–from Carefree Highway by Gordon Lightfoot

April 9, 2022 — On a bright and sunny Saturday morning, a dozen Arizona Yacht Club volunteers gathered to help clear litter from a section of Carefree Highway that, as the song says, has seen better days (at least from a trash perspective). 

Organized by Green Team leader Joanne Aspinall, the event brought new and old club faces together to pick up 26 bags of litter and road debris along a one-mile stretch of busy roadway leading to Lake Pleasant. 

Joanne briefs her team on the dos and don’ts of the clean-up.

The timing for reengaging with the Adopt-a-Highway program was fortuitous. Aspinall asked Commodore Deb Heisler about the effort about the same time Heisler was renewing the contract. “It seemed to be a good fit for the Green Team, so I asked whether we could take that over,” Aspinall noted. She was initially skeptical about the turnout for the event, but thrilled with the crowd. “Talking to people that haven’t done anything with the club until today or don’t get involved, (and) also seeing familiar faces is a lot of fun,” she added with a smile.

Page and Greg prepare to tackle the litter.

The volunteers donned yellow safety vests, gloves, and hats, and grabbed pickers and bags before splitting into two groups with plans to start at the ends and meet in the middle. It was  early enough in the day that the temps weren’t too bad, but the ground was rough and the work grueling. Cars and trucks with and without boats and trailers in tow, RVs, and lots of motorcycles whizzed by, a few offering encouragement with a toot of the horn or a wave of appreciation. After about two hours, all the available bags were filled, sealed and piled on the roadway for highway officials to pick up in the days to come.  The project was deemed “done.” 

Dennis Swift secures a bag of litter before adding it to a pile along the highway. 

With no more trash, this small section of highway does the club proud. Lori Reger was one of the first Adopt-a-Highway volunteers and was proud to take part this day. “We’re continuing the trend from 2012, which was my first Adopt-a-Highway program, so I want to keep the highway clean just like we did back then,” she said. The club adopted the busy stretch of highway near Lake Pleasant ten years ago. Perhaps many  passers-by questioned the “Adopted by Arizona Yacht Club” sign thinking, “there’s sailing in the desert?” 

Robin Stewart and Andrew Newingham prepped and ready for work!
Passing drivers honked and waved their appreciation for the team’s efforts.
There’s a whole lot of trash hidden in  the vegetation.

Participants celebrated the accomplishment with beers and burgers at the nearby Wild Horse West saloon. Asked why events like these are important, Heisler said over her chili, “There’s a lot of people that don’t show up for sailing … they’re not racers, they may not even have a boat, but they’re willing to participate. My goal is to provide opportunities for participation, engagement and involvement with the club.” Many members are willing to help out with projects like the highway clean-up even though they aren’t seen on the race course, she explained, adding proudly, “They were willing to come and help with something like this and they enjoyed it!”

The team celebrates a job well done. 
Team celebration (From left to right: Andrew Newingham, Robin Stewart, Deb Heisler, Teun Baas, Joanne Aspinall, Ed Austin, Jo Grijalva, Mike Grijalva, Lori Reger)

A big thanks to all the volunteers who participated in the clean-up: 

Joanne Aspinall
Ed Austin
Teun Baas
Page Carapetyan
Mike & Jo Grijalva
Deb Heisler
Andrew Newingham
Lori Reger
Greg Romano
Robin Stewart
Dennis Swift