(Update: Adding video, comments by ODOT, DCSO)
REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Oregon Highway 126 has seen a recent trash buildup between Redmond and Prineville due to a lack of inmate crews and others who usually tackle the litter-removal task, ODOT said Thursday.
ODOT officials said they now view the need for an immediate cleanup as ar top priority, and are working on how to proceed.
Typically, they said, the agency receives assistance through youth volunteer groups, the "Adopt a Highway" program and inmate work crews from area jails.
But all have been disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to enforce social distancing and limit interactions that could spread the virus.
Reporter Alec Nolan spoke Thursday with ODOT Region 4 Public Information Officer Peter Murphy about how the department will clear the trash moving forward.
"Youth volunteers come to work with us over the summer to pick up litter," Murphy said. "We've also worked with trustees from the county jail system, but neither of those are available to us right now due to the COVID situation."
Although ODOT monitors the roads and highways across the state, cleaning up litter is not their primary responsibility, Murphy said. The department has always relied on help from the community, but the pandemic has complicated partnerships.
We also spoke with Deschutes County sheriff's Lt. William Bailey to better understand the decision to not use inmate work crews for cleanup efforts.
"Our office is really proud to have this service," Bailey said. "Because of COVID-19, correctional facilities across the state have had to make changes to keep their adults in custody safe."
Without usual help at their disposal, ODOT is now asking the Central Oregon community to help take action.
Simply put: They're asking people not to litter.