Pennsylvania couple fights litter by patrolling highway - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Pennsylvania couple fights litter by patrolling highway

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By MATTHEW GUERRY
Tribune-Review

EAST HUNTINGDON, Pa. (AP) - Drive down any stretch of highway long enough, and you'll pass a sign recognizing a local business or organization that adopted that section of roadway.

But take Old Route 119 between New Stanton United Methodist Church and the old Sony manufacturing plant in East Huntingdon, and you'll see a sign bearing a less familiar name.

"Kate and Randy Reagan," it reads.

The sign is a small token of gratitude for the couple, who adopted the road and have kept it clean for 10 years.

"We're not trying to save the world," said Randy Reagan, 65. "We're just trying to do our little part."

The Reagans are quiet and joke that they don't have many hobbies. But the cozy living room in their Hempfield home, which once belonged to Randy's grandmother, tells a different story.

The shelves are filled with rows of Randy Reagan's history books, autobiographies and novels he hasn't gotten around to organizing.

"I put puzzles together like crazy," said Kate Reagan, 64, gesturing to boxes with landscapes, bald eagles and automobiles displayed between the shelves.

The two don't think of themselves as "tree-huggers," even though they recycle. Their crusade is in the name of reducing eyesores, and it's one that spans more than the two miles of road they formally adopted.

They regularly pick up litter along the half-mile stretch behind their house and part of the road leading to the old plant.

"We walk it a couple times a month, generally. And the way the nature of litter is, you can walk it one day and it starts building up the next," Randy Reagan said.

Walking, another of their hobbies, became particularly important after a stroke put Kate Reagan out of work in 1998.

"Walking is a lot of my therapy," she said. "And if you're gonna walk, you might as well pick up the garbage."

The couple met at the Robertshaw manufacturing plant in New Stanton, where they used to work. She was a "gofer" in the cafeteria, and he worked in the shop until he retired in 2000.

"With the name Reagan, I thought he had money," Kate Reagan said. "And he thought I could cook. And guess what? Thirty-five years later, still can't cook and still don't have money. But something must be right."

It was in retirement when they were walking more that the Reagans took notice of the litter. But neither recalled a particular moment that pushed them to adopt the road.

Adoption is a two-year, two-mile commitment for which PennDOT provides the safety vests, work gloves and, upon request, a collapsible "Litter Crew Ahead" sign. When they're on the beat, he uses a homemade spear to pick up litter off the pavement and Kate Reagan carries a walking stick she calls her "attitude adjuster."

It not only helps to keep her upright, she said, but can be used as a weapon in case snakes or other unsavory characters slither near her.

By the end of the day, their plastic bags are usually filled with plastic bottles and aluminum cans, though they've found more unusual things.

"I've had to return driver's licenses and credit cards in the mail," Randy Reagan said, hazarding that they might have come from stolen wallets.

And they don't plan on stopping any time soon. Don Handley, who spearheaded a recent effort to get a sign posted in his neighbors' honor, calls them the road warriors.

"I've lived in the area for almost 20 years," Handley, 60, said. "(They're) the nicest neighbors you'd ever want to know."

While the Reagans think of what they do as a good, Christian deed, it may have a greater impact than beautification.

Storm runoff carries litter to culverts and grates, where it can accumulate and block the drainage path. When that happens, PennDOT spokeswoman Valerie Petersen said, water collects on the road, creating hydroplaning hazards for drivers in warm weather and ice patches in cold weather.

"It's not only ugly; keeping your garbage in your vehicle can save a life," Petersen said.

"When you think about it," Randy Reagan said, "probably everybody appreciates it. Even the litterers."

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Information from: Tribune-Review, http://triblive.com

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