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A green, pristine calling card: ‘Penn College was here’

Those who assume responsibility for cleaning up the commonwealth’s roads under the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Adopt-a-Highway program – and more than 3,500 volunteers have signed on for stewardship of nearly 8,000 miles to date – generally have their commendable hands full tending to litter pickup alone. Penn College General Services, which keeps the entire institution humming and beautiful year-round, obviously didn’t stop there in its first official roadside foray. (The college contracted last year to adopt the Interstate 180 on/off ramps south of campus, but the state suspended the program in Spring 2020 when many counties were under stay-at-home orders.) The “all hands on deck” work detail was initiated by Timothy M. Weigle, associate director of maintenance, and a large group of tool-wielding co-workers, equipped by PennDOT with safety vests and trash bags, made quick work of enhancing the neighborhood.

“When Tim approached our leadership team with the idea of partnering with PennDOT in this manner, it was an easy decision,” said Timothy O. Rissel, executive director of the department. “We instantly recognized that this is a great opportunity to develop some teamwork and camaraderie among General Services while directly giving back to our community. The Adopt-a-Highway project in this location also helps to clean up the front door to the campus, ensuring that prospective students and guests are given a positive welcome to Williamsport as soon as they get off the interstate.”

Weigle’s let’s-get-everyone-together idea readily took hold among his colleagues, including Andrea L. Dildine, horticulturist/grounds and motor pool manager. “(He) approached me regarding participation in the effort to keep Pennsylvania litter-free and beautiful by adopting the Interstate 180 interchange at Maynard Street,” said Dildine, a 1987 forest technology graduate and one of a number of alumni employees at GS. “It is a great opportunity to exhibit our civic duty toward a spring cleanup near the entryway to Penn College.”

Weigle said the crew was on the scene for about 90 minutes, bagging trash (including “a half-million cigarette butts”), clearing brush and even cutting down a dead tree that had lingered on the westbound hillside for years. “This is the gateway to our school,” he said, affirming his teammates’ rationale for their singular mission. “It’s the first impression that many people get of Williamsport.”

– Photos by Larry D. Kauffman, digital publishing specialist/photographer

Focused and fast-moving, the group fans out to spruce up the campus' welcome mat.
Focused and fast-moving, the group fans out to spruce up the campus’ welcome mat.

Natasha M. Martin, groundskeeper at the Schneebeli Earth Science Center (where she earned multiple degrees in landscape/horticulture technology), wields a rake with purpose – and alumni pride.
Natasha M. Martin, groundskeeper at the Schneebeli Earth Science Center (where she earned multiple degrees in landscape/horticulture technology), wields a rake with purpose – and alumni pride.

Not content with mere garbage pickup, the crew goes the extra half-mile to beautify the area.
Not content with mere garbage pickup, the crew goes the extra half-mile to beautify the area.

Chad L. Karstetter, horticulturist/motor pool lead person (and a 1999 forest technology alumnus), cuts with a chainsaw while Gregory A. Weaver, an HVAC-refrigeration mechanic, pulls brush.
Chad L. Karstetter, horticulturist/motor pool lead person (and a 1999 forest technology alumnus), cuts with a chainsaw while Gregory A. Weaver, an HVAC-refrigeration mechanic, pulls brush.

Traffic rumbles above the team's early-morning worksite, no longer a cluttered catch-all of motorists' throwaways.
Traffic rumbles above the team’s early-morning worksite, no longer a cluttered catch-all of motorists’ throwaways.

A tree stump and gathered limbs are just a few of the signs that a significant cleanup, the first of many under the college's highway-adoption agreement, is underway.
A tree stump and gathered limbs are just a few of the signs that a significant cleanup, the first of many under the college’s highway-adoption agreement, is underway.

A fleet of GS vehicles lines the berm, along with some of the random refuse gathered Wednesday morning. Among the haul? A pylon, signposts, lumber and a tire.
A fleet of GS vehicles lines the berm, along with some of the random refuse gathered Wednesday morning. Among the haul? A pylon, signposts, lumber and a tire.

Take a good look! PennDOT scheduled a next-day pickup of the collected debris, the coda to General Services' opening number.
Take a good look! PennDOT scheduled a next-day pickup of the collected debris, the coda to General Services’ opening number.