|HIGHWAY PROGRAM DEPENDS ON O'GRADYS, LOVE MONKEYS|
|April 08, 2005 11:00 pm|
By Peter Rice
Pilot staff writer
Adopt a Highway signs are a fixture of the American road from the purple mountains to our section of shining sea.
The concept is simple: businesses, clubs and service organizations "adopt" a stretch of road and pick up litter from time to time, helping the community and hopefully having a good bonding experience while they're at it.
But while most signs don't merit a second look, others make you wonder.
In other words, just who are Bill and Deborah O'Grady anyway? You know their names, but not their faces until now.
The O'Gradys are responsible for keeping Chetco Ave., roughly between the Fred Meyer and the bridge, clean and trash free.
Bill retired from the Jackson County Sheriff's Department in 2003. The couple moved to Brookings and is in the process of building a house.
They're only required to pick up the trash four times a year, but they usually patrol the area every day.
"We're driving through town anyway," Bill said. "We wanted to do something for the community because it's such a beautiful area."
Bill works as an instructional aide at Azalea Middle School and does custodial work at Brookings Presbyterian Church. Deborah works as the church's secretary.
Bill reports that Brookings is a pretty clean community.
"We haven't really noticed a lot of litter actually," he said.
And seeing their names in big capital letters?
"It's pretty weird, I'll tell you," Bill said.
Other adopt a highway groups in Curry County break the conventional business/club/service group mold.
A group called "Oregon Friends of John Denver" has adopted a section of ironically enough country road south of town. The group could not be reached for comment.
But the The Love Monkeys for Peace, based in Port Orford, were willing to talk.
"The stretch that we've got is just gorgeous," said Mark Lankton, one of the founding members of the group.
Just what are the Love Monkeys all about?
"I kind of look at it as a cross between Mr. Rogers and Abbie Hoffman," Lankton said.
The political activist Hoffman (1936-1989) is widely seen as the father of the eclectic "yippie" movement and is famous for throwing fistfuls of dollar bills onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
The Love Monkeys grew out of last year's 4th of July parade in Port Orford, in which Lankton wore a gorilla suit, and now counts 20 members. Part of the motivation, Lankton said, was a general anti-war feeling.
"You can deal with serious issues in lighthearted ways," he said.
"Each time we've gone out we've got about 12 bags of trash.
"The biggest surprise so far has been a manual typewriter."
The typewriter wasn't working, and it's since gone to the giant ribbon factory in the sky.
Just about anyone can volunteer to adopt a section of highway. After all, said Lankton, "I'm just a regular guy in a gorilla suit."