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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : features : features May 26, 2016

3/16/2013 3:27:00 PM
A 100-mile quest to clean up a Veterans Highway
VVN/Raquel Hendrickson
Tuesday and Wednesday, Gary Chamberlain will be picking up 100 bags of trash across 100 miles of Interstate 17, from Camp Verde to Anthem and back again. The aim is to pick up one bag of garbage at each mile post to bring awareness to the trashing of the Arizona Veterans Highway.
VVN/Raquel Hendrickson
Tuesday and Wednesday, Gary Chamberlain will be picking up 100 bags of trash across 100 miles of Interstate 17, from Camp Verde to Anthem and back again. The aim is to pick up one bag of garbage at each mile post to bring awareness to the trashing of the Arizona Veterans Highway.

Raquel Hendrickson
Bugle Managing Editor

CAMP VERDE - Not many people like to see trash along the interstate. Veterans especially do not like to see trash scattered along an Arizona Veterans Highway.

It makes them look bad, or at least disrespected.

Interstate 17 is an Arizona Veterans Highway. It is trashed.

Coinciding with the beginning of several clean-up days in Camp Verde, a support team of veterans, businesses, organizations and individuals is siphoning its energy into a one-man, 100-mile effort March 19-20.

Along the southbound lanes of I-17 from Camp Verde to Anthem and then returning up the northbound lanes, the goal is to pick up one 33-gallon bag of trash for every mile to finish the effort with 100 bags of trash.

Gary Chamberlain of Cornville is a veteran. He's made a name for himself picking up trash along roadways and in the process has put a lot of noses out of joint. This is particularly true when he tries to hound Adopt-a-Highway groups into actually picking up litter along their adopted section of the highway.

Chamberlain calls the trashing of I-17 "an embarrassment." He not only wants to draw attention to the problem but also show youth groups a real opportunity to raise funds. Groups of businesses have shown their willingness to pay others to pick up litter along Verde Valley roads. Think of $10 a bag.

He will be doing the litter pick-up for this two-day event. The Arizona Department of Transportation can put up with one pedestrian along the roadway but not a group of do-gooders.

"You will be doing this at your own risk." That's the message Chamberlain received from the government ombudsman for ADOT when he explained the latest litter-pickup drive. Without I-17 specifically banning "pedestrians, bicycles or other non-motorized traffic," he was told by Ombudsman Don Cassano that he can work as an individual, stopping at each milepost to fill a bag.

But he's not really alone. The massive support team of businesses, organizations and individuals between the Verde Valley and Anthem includes the Hampton Inn at Anthem, which is putting up Chamberlain and his wife overnight.

The partners in the effort include veterans Drake Mitchell of American Legion Post #135 in Sedona, Larry Wandsnider of Rimrock, Joe Johnson of VFW Post #6739 in Camp Verde, Bill Carter of Camp Verde Realty, Mal Otterson of the Verde Villages, B.J. McCarty of American Legion Post #93 in Camp Verde, Greg Penrod of Sedona Pines Resort, Juan Arvizu of American Legion Post #35 in Maricopa, Steve Thrine of Camp Verde Auto Parts, Jody White of Northern Arizona Digging Services in Cornville, Don Hanks of Tire Pro Automotive in Sedona, Cottonwood and Camp Verde, Don Otto of Sun Valley Tire in Prescott Valley, Frank Church of Gilbert, Graham Robertson of Graham's Auto Sales in Cottonwood, Chuck Turnquist of Roadrunner Recycling in Cottonwood, Dean Williamson of Zoomers Bike & Gear in Cottonwood, and Bill and Mary Harrison of Cornville.

The businesses that have partnered in this project are Garbo Grabber of Stratford, Conn., Sheri Starr of Highlands Resort in Cornville, Neil Dixon of Reese & Sons Tire in Cottonwood, Coldwell Banker Mabery Real Estate in Cottonwood and the Hampton Inn in Anthem.

Litter pickers, trash bag holders and snake-proof shin guards have been donated to the cause.

It does not take as much time to fill 100 bags of trash as one might think. In just 15 minutes near the Adopt-A-Highway sign In Memory of RM "RIC" Stone USMC at milepost 278 at Camp Verde, he picked up three bags of trash. That sign will be his starting point on Tuesday.

Because stopping at every milepost will only begin to touch the trash that is scattered on the landscape, Chamberlain said the effort is to bring awareness to the trashing of the Arizona Veterans Highway "and the disgrace it brings to our veterans and Arizona."

Those who want to be involved can call him at (928) 202-1186 or email

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