ODOT planted wildflowers around the state in the 1990s, purely for aesthetics. While they were pretty to look at, they were expensive to maintain, not sustainable and provided little benefit to wildlife. So, ODOT discontinued planting wildflowers for the sake of beauty.
Then, in 2013, ODOT partnered with ODNR and Pheasants Forever constructed
ODOT’s first roadside pollinator habitat in Darke County. Native grasses and
perennial wildflowers that reseed every year were planted, with the goal of
creating a sustainable and low maintenance habitat for pollinators. The
planting was a success and with some minor adjustments to the seed mix, ODOT
began planting additional pollinator habitats.
Realizing the many benefits of roadside pollinator
habitats, ODOT became a founding partner of the Ohio Pollinator Habitat
Initiative (OPHI) in 2015. In late 2016, ODOT created a fully funded standalone
Highway Beautification and Pollinator Habitat Program to capture the numerous
opportunities available to establish new pollinator habitat on ODOT’s right of
Initially, ODOT focused on
converting idle areas along roadsides - such as wide shoulders and infields
that are currently being mowed - to pollinator habitats. Now, ODOT has converted
hundreds of acres of state-owned property including:
Retired and current weigh stations
Retired and current rest areas
Land surrounding ODOT garages and district offices
Brownfields, known now as “ODOT’s Brownfields to Blooms Program"
- Excess right of way ODOT purchased for future growth
ODOT has actively expanded
its number of roadside pollinator habitats from 15 in 2016 to 120 in 2018.
Currently, ODOT has more than 800 acres of roadside pollinator habitats in
development with plans to add 150 acres per year, and to have at least one roadside
pollinator habitat in each of Ohio’s 88 counties by 2022.
In addition to our
partnership with OPHI and the creation of the Highway
Beautification and Pollinator Habitat Program, ODOT has worked to reduce mowing
on roadsides. Last year, ODOT changed its mowing policy, reducing full mowbacks
from up to 10 times per year to once per year.
For more information about the program or to find out how you can help, please contact Joel Hunt, ODOT Highway Beautification and Pollinator Habitat Program Administrator, 614-466-7173 or Joel.Hunt@dot.ohio.gov.