CINCINNATI -- Drivers on Ohio’s highways might occasionally notice a break in the common sights of grass, fields and passing cities. That touch of color from flowers or other landscaping doesn’t come from the Ohio Department of Transportation, even though it’s the department’s right of way.
Landscaping along ODOT’s roadways is permitted by interested parties, who must receive permission to plant vegetation.
“It’s a permit for access, essentially,” said Brian Cunningham, communications manager for ODOT District 8.
Although any individual or group can obtain access to landscape, permission most commonly sought by local government entities and businesses. Sycamore, West Chester and Liberty townships are among the municipalities in Greater Cincinnati with vegetative planting permits.
The type of landscaping varies. In West Chester, for example, the township is responsible for mowing infields and along exit and entrance ramps at the Union Centre Boulevard interchange. The exits also feature decorative landscaping, including flowers and trees.
The value of the decorative landscaping and regular maintenance lies in the sense of invitation it reflects on the community.
“I guess that’s our entryway, our front door so to speak,” said Tim Franck, community services director for West Chester Township.
“The Union Centre Boulevard interchange was … designed to really be a corporate entrance to our community,” said Barb Wilson, the township's director of integrated multimedia and marketing.
The Union Centre interchange is the only area for which the township holds a maintenance agreement, said Franck.
Businesses tend to seek vegetative planting permits for basic maintenance purposes, but the sentiment is similar to the township’s.
“Some businesses want a permit to cut grass in the vicinity of their business because they may want it done more often than what we do,” Cunningham said.
Regardless of the motivation, there’s a process. In addition to filling out an application, those hoping to obtain a permit must submit a plan for the proposed landscaping and any existing vegetation to be removed.
There also are limitations to what can be planted and where.
“There are parameters with regard to the items that are being planted,” Cunningham said.
Any vegetation planted in ODOT’s right of way must meet visibility standards, clearance restrictions and safety guidelines. Plants must also be species native to Ohio.
Once a permit is issued, the individual or group is responsible for maintaining landscaping in the designated area.
With the exception of areas maintained by permit-holders, ODOT is responsible for maintenance, such as mowing, tree trimming and trash removal. These maintenance services are performed by ODOT employees and contract workers.
For more information about vegetative planting permits, or to apply for one, visit http://www.dot.state.oh.us/districts/D08/Pages/Vegetative.aspx.