Archive for Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wildflower growth gains traction alongside roads, highways

Reduced maintenance, improved driver safety among advantages

February 23, 2010


Governments are discovering that an environmentally friendly reduction in roadside mowing can spawn other benefits, including lower maintenance expenses and perhaps even improved driver safety.

Turns out the inherent beauty of black-eyed Susans and other wildflowers is only the beginning.

Roger Boyd, director of natural areas for Baker University, says that most wildflowers in Douglas County bloom in the fall.

Roger Boyd, director of natural areas for Baker University, says that most wildflowers in Douglas County bloom in the fall.

“There seems to be a mindset in the United States that because we have lawns, and we mow our lawns, that the roadbed should look like our lawns,” said Roger Boyd, director of natural areas for Baker University. “People think anything over six inches (high) is weedy. They need to get over it. …

“(Governments are) going to save tremendous amounts on fuel by not mowing, and it benefits lots of different wildlife — not to mention having the beauty of the flowers.”

Such sentiments are gaining traction with local and state governments.

When Douglas County trimmed its roadside mowing costs a year ago in response to budget concerns, officials encountered no opposition from adjacent property owners or anyone else driving on main roads outside Lawrence, Baldwin City, Eudora and Lecompton.

Last year’s bill: $49,161 for personnel, equipment and fuel, slightly less than the amount spent to mow county parks and along hiking and biking trails.

Keith Browning, county public works director, aims to leave wildflowers untouched for as long as possible, but concedes that roadsides must be mowed to prevent damage.

The county mows a 10-foot-wide swath along county roads once a year, he said. The width is extended to cover the entire right-of-way once every three years, to prevent “woody vegetation” from getting so large that it poses a threat to motorists.

“We try to strike a balance,” Browning said.

The Kansas Department of Transportation saves money by issuing permits for adjacent property owners to harvest hay that grows along highways.

Related document

Managing Kansas' Roadsides ( .PDF )

The department also has a policy for mowing only once a year in certain areas, to allow wildflowers to thrive where visibility isn’t an issue.

Boyd welcomes the moves, as he works to establish 64 varieties of wildflowers on a 142-acre patch of reestablished wetlands at the southern edge of Lawrence.

He’s seen research that roadside wildflowers actually help reduce the number of deer kills in rural areas. Think of the plants like pedestrian signals for four-legged fawns and bucks, giving them reason to stop and, perhaps, think.

“If it’s mowed 150 feet wide, they just kick up and go,” Boyd said. “With vegetation on the side, it may cause them to slow down before they go across.”


Scott Drummond 8 years, 3 months ago

And you think mowed grass will stop animals from crossing highways?

I applaud the movement.

pace 8 years, 3 months ago

Saves money, less government, yes it is a liberal idea in action.

parrothead8 8 years, 3 months ago

consumer1 (anonymous) says... "Okay so we let the weeds grow to six inches plus, and then who starts whining about the little critters who are run over and smashed on the hiways, because there is NO visibility to prevent them from seeing us coming or us being able to slow down to keep from killing them. Typical short sighted left wing dictatorship. Maybe you should think before being quoted."

Typical gut-level right wing reactionary response...someone proposes NOT cutting the grass to save money and you call it a dictatorship?

As if squirrels and other critters aren't smart enough to figure out how to look for predators (cars) when the grass is 8 inches high instead of 6 inches high. They've only figured out how to survive as a species for 40 million years or so, but I'm sure that extra few inches of grass is going to be the thing that does them in.

Maybe you should think before thinking.

pace 8 years, 3 months ago

LOL, Wild flowers and a different mowing pattern results in rampant mouse murder. Politics rant amok,either liberal or conservative, Maybe just something different oooo change, ooooo fear, must be a left or right ploy. Sad. If some people would quit politicizing every action and look at reality we would sow more and mow less. My favorite is hay, but gotta like the flowers. Who needs for us to pay a greens keeper for the highway lawn look. Look beyond stupid. Maybe we should all tolerate less lawn and more options.

Sharon Aikins 8 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, heaven forbid we should have anything natural around. Let's mow it, spray it, pollute the environment with it and kill not only the animals but the people with it so our roadsides can look well manicured. I am middle of the road, neither left nor right, not a hippie, over 60 and still think this makes sense and the world a nicer place because we are letting it be itself. Don't bother, consumer 1, I never come back to blogs after posting. I got your point but I'm sure you wouldn't even consider anyone else's.

cowboy 8 years, 3 months ago

There has to be some level of maintenance on the roadsides to keep the vegetation healthy and there is nothing wrong with an attractive roadside. If you just let it go it just becomes a matted down mess full of trash . I wish the wetlands would reroute the ditch on haskell so there could actually be a roadside. I worry as I drive that road every day that someone is going into that thing head first in a car accident with the deepwater and the immediate treeline it would not be pretty.

Ken Lassman 8 years, 3 months ago

Hmmm....I know it sounds radical, but how 'bout reviewing the literature to see what folks who have actually studied the issue found out?

"Spatio-temporal trends in armadillo diurnal activity and roadkills in Central Florida" " summer, armadillos are predominantly nocturnal and apparently more active. Consequently their roadkill rates nearly doubled and were highly correlated with traffic volume but not with vegetation."

seems that would indicate that on summer nights, folks need to watch for armadillos, who are moving into the area, by the way. Interesting that there is no correlation between the vegetation treatment and roadkills. Not surprising about the traffic volume affecting numbers, tho.

Florida research also indicated that mortality increased with increased speeds and increased density of roadside vegetation cover, in "Effects of Linear landscapes on Forest Wildlife" Hm....might be a problem.

Then the Florida Dept. of Transportation said that most deer-vehicle accidents occur in seasons when mowing and road salt are not issues. Here in Kansas, that would correlate with the November mating season, when they are going crazy not because of the unmowed roadsides but because of the deer pheremones!

Research seems to indicate that unmowed roadsides improves butterfly habitat, helps bird populations nest and find food if not mowed before July.

So, I think overall it would be neutral to slightly beneficial to wildlife overall, and save money to boot. Not too bad!

somedude20 8 years, 3 months ago

I know a dude who knows a dude and a dude friend said that he heard that a friend of a friend knows a dude with a sister and her friend said that they found k-2 growing wild.

pace 8 years, 3 months ago

Duh consumer, You get it , with a big Borat NOT.

K_Verses_The_World 8 years, 3 months ago

Purple clover, Queen Anne lace, Crimson hair across your face, You could make me cry if you don't know. Can't remember what I was thinkin' of You might be spoilin' me too much, love, You're gonna make me lonesome when you go.

Flowers on the hillside, blooming crazy, Crickets talking back and forth in rhyme, Blue river running slow and lazy, I could stay with you forever And never realize the time.

Bob Dylan - You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go

Linda Aikins 8 years, 3 months ago

Consumer 1, RedMoon is telling the truth. She NEVER comesback to a post to face any possible criticism because her word is THE word. You can say all you want once she posts because she types and runs.

I will tell you who she is (in private) and you will understand her lack of backbone.

parrothead8 8 years, 3 months ago

consumer1 (anonymous) says... I guess you forgot the big protest all you far left nut jobs did about saving the "critters" who were getting smashed on 31st street crossing the wet lands. I guess those particular pampered 'critters" aren't smart enough to survive, huh??? Ha ha... And, by the way, the road side along the wet lands is high weedy type of growth. Hmmmmm, wonder why human intervention had to take place to "save the critter's from getting smashed"... Maybe you should think before you spew stupidity. I would enjoy the flowers, I just think this based on liberal ideology and not thought out very well. Maybe you should put down the bong and think about things from an unstoned position. You really shouldn't be affraid of reality. Step away from the bong Parrothead.

I'm offended that you would label me a drug user on a public forum without knowing who I am. I've been clean and sober for over 15 years, you moron, so get off your moral high horse. I never participated in any "big protest" either. I don't even know what you're talking about. I just think that saving money by letting grass grow a little longer is a good idea...seriously, what's to think about? We're talking about LETTING GRASS GROW. How friggin' long do they have to think through it? God, man. Attitudes like yours are why nothing gets done in politics. "Hmmm...letting grass grow? I don't know about that...sounds kinda socialist. Perhaps we should talk about it for another few months and commission a few studies. Just don't make it any more difficult for me to buy my 47th assault rifle."

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