MOON LAKE, Fla. - Lots of civic-minded groups have joined the nationwide "Adopt-A-Road" litter patrol campaign.
Now make way for the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
"We want to help out as much as we can in the community," said John Pipes, who presides as grand cyclops for ceremonies of his KKK branch.
When their Adopt-A-Road sign went up along a stretch of Lake Drive in Moon Lake this week, people took notice.
"That sign shouldn't be here," snapped Lake Drive resident Rocco Greco. "It represents hate."
Not at all, said Pipes, insisting his group's motives in adopting this stretch of road are as wholesome as any garden club's. "We are a love group. We love our race."
Pasco County is not the first place in which controversial groups have sought to participate in Adopt-A-Road programs, in which organizations "adopt" a stretch of road and keep it free of litter.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, for instance, adopted an Arkansas highway without a fight. Arkansas officials put up a fight, but lost, when the Ku Klux Klan did the same thing.
The issue has turned into a free-speech debate in states such as Texas and Louisiana, where authorities have sought to prevent the Klan from adopting roads. And with help from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Klan has won a number of legal battles over whether it has a right to participate in such programs.
In Pasco County, officials overseeing the anti-litter program said they didn't even consider rejecting the Klan's application.
"We're treating everybody the same, and they successfully met the rules and regulations that govern it," said Bob Sigmond, whose solid-waste department oversees the program.
As for Pipes, he's more than satisfied. "It just tickles us to death to be able to get a sign like that," Pipes said.
"Probably 90 to 95 percent of the people out there think that's what it is," he said. "The county has really worked nice with me and stuff (which) really surprised me. I don't want to make any kind of a rift."
Pipes has promised to hold at least four roadside cleanups annually. His crew of Klansmen will wear red safety vests, but they'll leave their robes at home.