Support Parks, Adopt a Highway, and Other Ways to Create a Living Memorial

April 7, 2021
If you are looking for unique ways to create a living Memorial, you can pick from popular options like Adopt A Highway or supporting state parks all the way down to more creative ways to celebrate your loved one.
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If you are looking for unique ways to create a living Memorial, you can pick from popular options like Adopt A Highway or supporting state parks all the way down to more creative ways to celebrate your loved one.

A living memorial is a wonderful way to create a lasting impression and there are so many options depending on where you live. Some cities, for example, are open to ideas and suggestions, will help you find a citywide beautification process where you can create a living Memorial that best represents your loved one. You might prefer something state-based or a bit grander like the adopt-a-highway program or supporting a state park.

How can I support parks to create a living memorial?

There are many different ways in which you can support parks to create a living memorial. From trees to conservation efforts to a standard park bench, you can find a way to honor someone who treasured the outdoors, had a love of a particular region, or cherish weekly hikes in a nearby state park. 

Memorial Trees

You can give the gift of a tree. The National Forestry Service partners with different organizations to help reforest National Parks. You can create a living memorial by contributing to tree planting programs such as:

  • Forest Service Plant-A-Tree is another way to create a living memorial while reforesting public lands in their honor.

Memorial trees are not just a gift for state parks but for local parks. Many cities allow tree dedication and you can typically work with the Parks and Recreation Department in the city of your choosing to determine which park is best. 


If a tree is not what you had in mind, there are other ways you can support parks through conservation efforts like: 

Memorial benches

You can also set up benches to be customized and installed in a public location. For this, you can create a living memorial with a personalized bench in areas like:

  • Parks or malls
  • State parks
  • Bike paths
  • Downtown areas with lots of pedestrian traffic
  • City, county, or state buildings
  • Sports stadiums
  • Fairgrounds

The rules for how to go about applying for and installing a memorial bench in a public area will differ based on the county. 

Tip: If you are unable to find the requirements for a memorial bench or any other type of living Memorial in your local area you can always talk to your Parks and Recreation Department to figure out who is the point of contact.

  • In the city of Berkeley for example, only individuals can be honored with a memorial bench but only one year after they have been deceased. Here, the cost is inclusive of whatever the cost of the bench is you want to design, the cost of installation, and a $500 administrative fee. The city is responsible for the installation and most benches are in place for at least 10 years, and you get to approve the plaque that is mounted to the bench and provide the city with the site where you want it and the style you want for the bench, which the city has to approve beforehand. 
  • The city of Portland has what is called the adopt a bench program as a way to create a living Memorial in honor of your loved ones. This program works with the Parks and Recreation Department and you can choose to adopt and renovate an existing bench that is already installed somewhere in a Portland Park or you can install one where there is a need. You have to fill out the proper form, coordinate with the program director to get approval on the design of the bench and the location, submit the wording for the plaque that will go on the bench, and cover the cost. The costs vary depending on what bench you choose, whether you are renovating or installing a new bench, and the cost of the basic maintenance. In Portland the bench remains in effect for ten years after which time you can choose to re-adopt indefinitely.

Memorial Bench

Other living memorials include things like a commemorative grove of trees or a landscaped memorial garden. In addition to having a memorial bench made, you can donate to the landscaping of a public park and include the commemorative bench.

In Prince George County, Maryland, for example, you can create a memorial bench, or donate to park renovations such as sculptures placed in public parks, bike racks, drinking fountains, or other suitable signs. You can work with local parks and the commemorative gift specialist to create a lasting legacy and a living memorial in their hometown.

In the City of Tucson, Arizona, you can not only install a memorial bench with a plaque in memory of your loved one, but you can install a commemorative tree dedicated to your loved one. 

You might consider memorial bird feeders. A celebratory gift, these bird feeders will provide local birds with food and nourishment, typically with an engraved custom image or text panel on the front. 

How to Adopt a Highway 

When you adopt a highway, you can keep the memory of your loved one alive in a public place, with a sign that serves as a tribute. 

Before you commit, bear in mind that this isn’t a one time investment, at least not of your time; Adopt-A-Highway in many states requires that you provide a certain number of volunteer hours to keep clean that area. That said you can always hire volunteers or a work crew to keep it clean.

Most adopt-a-highway programs require a minimum of a 2 year commitment. 

Adopt a Highway Guidelines and Forms

Each state runs its own Adopt-A-Highway program, so it's important that you check with your State Department of Transportation, or the DOT for the state in which you want to Adopt A Highway. Some, for example, encourage individuals to adopt sections of the highway While others prohibit individuals. Some allow you to adopt a section only if you have a state-licensed cleaning crew to handle your required little removal while others let you rely on volunteers.

There are a few variations to be aware of:

  • South Carolina DOT Guidelines request rural roads with limited traffic be used. 
  • Kentucky, also, has different rules, as they do not allow an individual to adopt a highway, but they do allow associations, organizations, communities, and businesses*.  
  • New York DOT Guidelines allow adoption by individuals, volunteer groups, organizations, or businesses. 

*To get around the limitations in a state like Kentucky you might consider registering a small business like a sole proprietorship or an LLC under whose name you can adopt a highway for your loved one.

The adopt-a-highway application you have to fill out will be provided by your local Department of Transportation and you can choose the wording and the logo you want for the sign. A local coordinator will be in contact with you to give you details about the guidelines for the adopt-a-highway program and the adopt-a-highway cost based on where you live.

How much does it cost to adopt a highway? 

The cost varies based on state, but the cost of cleaning crews can add between $200 and $600 to the maintenance fees. 

How often do you have to clean the adopt a highway section?

The average is 4 times per year, to pick up litter on the highway section, but if you have a more heavily trafficked stretch of highway, the requirements might be more. 

How long do you adopt a highway? 

Typically you adopt a highway for a two-mile stretch, for a minimum of two years, though you cannot adopt interstate highways. When you fill out your adopt-a-highway application you can choose a two-year adoption or a four-year adoption. You are also free to submit an adopt-a-highway form for renewal at the end of that term for as long as you would like.

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