From: Jason Ludwigson
With city, state, and federal governments struggling to balance budgets and reduce costs, I am amazed that our government agencies can still find money to mow our roadside ditches. I understand the reasons for keeping our roadside mowed from a safety perspective. Tall grass and trees along our roads can impede vision and hide animals, becoming a safety hazard. However, mowing these roadsides is simply not a cost-effective way to address these safety concerns. For starters, the equipment that mows these roadsides is very expensive to purchase and maintain. Most of the mowing tractors used cost upwards of $50,000, and many that I have seen along the roads are brand new. These are inefficient machines, many using large amounts of fuel, which only add to the cost. In addition, our agenciesí large tractors use high powered mowing implements.
Second, the cost of paying an employee to mow these ditches for hours on a regular basis adds up. I am not saying that these employees are overpaid. Those people work hard and are entitled to be paid, but I am saying that there are other, more affordable alternatives to planting grass that requires regular mowing. So what are these money-saving alternatives?
Here are a few:
1. Plant low-growing drought tolerant grass and flower species. Species such as buffalo grass, little bluestem, and side-oats gramma would not only allow clear vision along our roadways, but would conserve soil with large root masses.
2. Mow these areas only once a year in August and September. This will allow many ground nesting birds such as pheasants, meadowlarks, warblers, killdeer, and many types of migratory waterfowl to nest successfully.
3. Complete preventative maintainance in the fall, winter, and spring by cutting young saplings and sucker trees while they are small and easily removed.
Changing the maintenance of our roadsides can reduce costs, cut carbon emissions, improve wildlife habitat, ensure safety, prevent invasive species, and improve the scenic beauty of our roadways. I would much rather see my taxpayer dollars go to patching, repaving, and reconstructing our existing road infrastructure. I ask you to ask yourself this question...How many times have you been frustrated by cracks and potholes in our roads? If, like me, this is an ongoing frustration, you need not worry as our government agencies are diligently keeping our roadside ditches well-manicured in the event you may need to drive on them!