New ODOT mowing practices to help wildlife and to reduce costs

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has changed their mowing practices to improve habitat for pollinators, to help the public save money, and to help free up crews to do other work.

Roadsides may look different due to a sudden jump in the height of grass.

A demonstration garden with many flowers ODOT plants along the state highways and interstates is, “of all the native wildflowers in Ohio,” said Joel Hunt of ODOT.

“This is what motorists see when they’re driving 70 miles an hour down the roadway,” continued Hunt.

This garden gives drivers a chance to see wildflowers up close, and the public can check them out at the rest stop.

For years, ODOT crews have mowed the entire right of way, that’s the space between the edge of the highway and the fences along interstates and highways the agency maintains.

“In fact, it’s very costly,” said Hunt.

As part of a new program, ODOT will be ‘naturalizing’ from 30-feet away from the edge of the highway all the way back to the fences along the interstate, creating what they call pollinator habitats. These are aimed at helping bees and butterflies by growing more of the native wildflowers they use to grow and survive.

“We’re helping wildlife, we’re reducing our costs--we do always maintain safety so we’re mowing the medians and that first 30 feet from the edge of the pavement so people have a safe place to change tires or what have you,” said Hunt.

ODOT’s goal is to have at least one pollinator habitat in all 88 Ohio counties by 2020.

The current habitats are established in Darke and Preble counties, and crews are in the process of planting one in Miami County at the I-75 rest stop in Piqua and one in Montgomery County at I-70 and Airport Access Road.

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