COLUMBIA — Wildflowers make great anniversary gifts.
The Missouri Department of Transportation is commemorating the 20th anniversary of its Adopt-A-Highway program by giving volunteers the chance to adopt stretches of road exclusively to plant Missouri wildflowers.
Melissa Black, spokeswoman for the Transportation Department, said the new option is another way to enhance Missouri’s beauty while encouraging the growth of native flowers. And the flowers are good for the environment.
“The flowers conserve soil and water, don’t need fertilizer or pesticides and are easier to take care of because they are much heartier,“ Black said.
Grow Native!, a joint program of the Missouri departments of Agriculture and Conservation, is working with the Transportation Department on the new initiative.
“We’re really excited to partner with MoDOT to beautify Missouri,” said Tammy Bruckerhoff, marketing and business development specialist for Grow Native!. The purple coneflower, yellow coreopsis and butterfly weed are a few of Missouri’s most recognizable native plants, she said.
Bruckerhoff said that the logistics of planting the wildflowers are still being discussed. The initiative will look at more than 10 pilot areas in the state where wildflowers are planted along the highway for information on how to proceed, Bruckerhoff said.
Stacy Armstrong, coordinator of the Transportation Department’s statewide Adopt-A-Highway program, said the program is working on a case-by-case basis.
With 32,000 miles of highway and 385,000 acres of roadside to oversee, representatives of the Transportation Department value the Adopt-A-Highway program’s maintenance of nearly 5,300 miles of state highway. The work of the program’s participants saves the department $1 million a year and “helps us to spend additional time on other things like fixing potholes or road striping” Black said.
With the introduction of this new program, Black hopes participation will go up.
“We’d love to see that number of miles double or even triple,” she said.
Participants in the Adopt-A-Highway program maintain the cleanliness of roadways by picking up litter and planting trees and flowers. The program started in Texas in 1985; Missouri joined in 1987.
Those interested in joining the program are asked to call 888-ASK-MODOT or go to modot.org.