Lost Item Returned: Here's How it Happened

It was a phone call on Wednesday, July 15, to CDOT Communications that advised of the problem:  a traveling party from Maryland had lost a duffel bag of persona; possessions somewhere between Buena Vista and Alamosa along U.S. 285 and SH 17.

Aubrey Shultz asked if items lost along Colorado's highways were sometimes found and turned in.  She was told that if CDOT employees found the item, it would be turned in and, if identification was possible, returned.  Shultz provided a detailed description of the lost item, which was wrapped in a trash bag.

CDOT Communications then notified Alamosa Maintenance Section 7 supervisor offices in Poncha Springs Alamosa, and Monte Vista that the item had been lost.

Drew McFarland, LTC Ops I at Poncha Springs, notified CDOT Communications just a couple of hours later that the item had been found and the Maryland party had been notified.

"Even before we had been able to notify our field employees that the item was missing, it had already been found at the 111 milepost on U.S. 285," McFarland said.  The location is exactly 11 miles north of the spot where U.S. 285 goes west to Saguache and SH 17 goes south to Alamosa.

Two members of Patrol 8 at Poncha Springs, Roy Pacheco and Joe McWhirter, were out cutting weeds near delineator posts along the roadway when they found the item.  "The plastic bag was pretty much trashed, but they found the duffel bag inside," McFarland said.  The two immediately notified McFarland that they believed they had the item in question.

If a citizen-lost item along the state highway system is found by CDOT employees, the chances are very high that the item will be returned if the owner can be identified.  "It depends on who finds the item," McFarland said.  "If our guys find it and if we can identify the owner, they will get it back, no doubt about it.  If someone else besides our employees find it, then the odds aren't nearly as good."

CDOT maintenance employees all over Colorado can identify with the situation of having citizens report that they lost an item, but CDOT employees never found it.

"Sometimes we find items along the roadway and we can't identify who the owner is.  We keep them at our maintenance facilities in hopes someone will inquire about it," McFarland said.  "Sometimes they ask us about them, and sometimes no one ever inquires.  Maybe it's because they aren't sure where they lost it."

The best experiences, McFarland said, are when items can be identified and returned.  "Wallets, billfolds, purses, a lot of those items can be identified.  So can cell phones, with a little work and some luck."  Any items containing identification cards, credit cards, and money are immediately turned over to the Chaffee County Sheriff's Office in McFarland's area.

"We can all identify with losing something important to us," McFarland said.  "It's a good feeling to be involved with getting people's personal possessions back to them."

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