The roadside right-of-way serves many purposes– it provides space to escape crashes, creates a sense of openness that contributes to driving ease, improves sight distances, provides space for maintenance activities, such as snow removal and storage, and provides an area that allows for proper road drainage. However, overhanging trees, brush and weeds can grow into a serious safety concern for road users, especially in and around power and telephone lines, highway medians and along the roadside.

The Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC) has developed a Roadside Vegetation Control Program to help keep the roadside right-of-way reasonably clear. This four-prong approach is designed to contain roadside vegetation that could obstruct motorists’ vision, obstruct the traveled portion of the roadway, create drainage problems or cause snow/ice problems if left unchecked, and includes the following actions:

Roadside mowing

WCRC uses a subcontractor to perform roadside mowing. Per their contract, they will mow along paved county roads twice and unpaved county roads once throughout the season. They do not mow along subdivision roads. The contractor is responsible for the scheduling of mowing to mow through the county most efficiently. They generally work on a township-by-township basis. Click here to read more about WCRC’s roadside mowing program.

Mechanical brush mowing (Boom Mowing)

WCRC crews use a specially designed brush mower to cut back roadside brush. This equipment will focus on clearing brush that is 2” in diameter or less. This mowing will be done year-round, whenever the weather allows. Over the past decade, WCRC has not had the resources to continuously brush mow. Fortunately, with increases to road funding from the state, WCRC is finally able to restart its mechanical brush mowing program.

Herbicides

Specifically trained, licensed and experienced professionals selectively apply the herbicides to specific vegetation that could create a driving hazard. Spraying along county guardrails takes place each spring. Spraying along rural road right-of-way is done on a rotating basis in one quarter of the county each August. WCRC’s contractor applies Tordon K, Escort, and NU-Film-IR (a drift control additive). This operation is not a continuous broadcast spray – only those areas in the rural road right-of-way with encroaching vegetation will be sprayed. Herbicide spraying does not take place in subdivisions, adjacent to bodies of water, along mowed lawns or along officially designated county “Natural Beauty Roads”. Click here for a flyer describing the program.

Click here for the “No Treatment Zone” Request Application (due to WCRC by July 15, 2019)

Hand trimming

Hand trimming is usually part of a larger road improvement project and is required to help ensure the safety of the roadway, including vertical clearance for emergency vehicles, school buses and WCRC snow plows.

Frequently Asked Questions

When will you be working on my road?

Roadside mowing – WCRC uses a subcontractor to perform roadside mowing. Per their contract, they will mow along paved county roads twice and unpaved county roads once throughout the season. They do not mow along subdivision roads. The contractor is responsible for the scheduling of mowing to mow through the county most efficiently. They generally work on a township-by-township basis.

Mechanical brush mowing – WCRC conducts this work year-round, whenever the weather allows.

Herbicide spraying – Spraying along county guardrails takes place each spring. Roadside herbicide spraying along rural road right-of-way takes place in approximately one-quarter of the county in the late summer. A given area will only be sprayed once every four years. The schedule for roadside spraying over the next four years is as follows:

  • 2019 – Webster, Dexter, Lyndon, Sylvan and Lima
  • 2020 – Salem, Northfield, Scio, Ann Arbor and Superior
  • 2021 – Sharon, Freedom, Manchester, Bridgewater and Saline
  • 2022 – Ypsilanti, Pittsfield, Lodi, York and Augusta

WCRC’s contractor, G & T Services is obligated to begin this work on or after August 1 each year. Herbicide operations are weather sensitive, so WCRC cannot determine the exact date the contractor will spray on any given road but the work is expected to be completed by the end of September each year.

Hand trimming – Hand trimming is usually part of a larger road improvement project.

Overgrown brush is making it difficult for me to safety exit my driveway. Will WCRC come out to remove this brush?

WCRC does not mow or clear brush for driveway sight distance. Driveway sight distance is the responsibility of the property owner per the terms of the driveway permit. WCRC will mow the road edges throughout the season which may help with driveway sight distance.

If a resident feels they still can’t see safely when pulling out of their driveway, they should clear the appropriate vegetation in order to be safe.

WCRC will work to clear overgrown brush near county road intersections that are blocking sight distance. If you know of an intersection that needs to be addressed, please click here to report the issue. 

Your crews just brush mowed and there are large branches in the road, are you coming back to clean-up?

Yes, it is our intention to clean up any large debris placed in the roadway as a result of this operation. The focus of mechanical brush mowing is the ditch area beyond the edge of pavement and most of the debris will remain in the ditch line.

Does WCRC really want property owners to assume responsibility of brush on their own property?

WCRC considers roadside maintenance a team effort and is pleased to have property owners as partners in this vital safety program. This is why the WCRC is eager to accommodate property owners who prefer to handle vegetation control themselves. This kind of joint effort benefits both WCRC and the property owners.

What herbicides will be used?

WCRC’s contractor, G & T Services, applies Tordon K, Escort and NU-Film-IR (a drift control additive).

Why doesn't WCRC just mow the roadside without using herbicides?

WCRC hires a contractor every summer to mow along the roadsides but this is not an appropriate solution for every brush problem.

Roadside mowing can be unsafe in certain circumstances and results in a wholesale reduction in vegetation, rather than just invasive or undesirable plants. Mowing also does not prevent re-growth; it is only a short term solution and requires frequent, ongoing mowing to keep vegetation under control. Brush will often re-sprout into many more stems than were originally cut, actually causing brush to become more dense.

Due to these challenges, WCRC uses a variety of tools within the Roadside Vegetation Control Program to keep the road right-of-way safe.

Can I ``opt-out`` of the herbicide spraying part of this program?

As a property owner, you do have a choice regarding the use of herbicides in the road right-of-way abutting your property. If you prefer that your property not be included in the herbicide portion of the Roadside Vegetation Control Program, you can opt out by completing the following steps before July 15, 2019.

  1. Click here for the “No Treatment Zone” Request Application. Return completed form in person, mail or email to WCRC’s office no later than July 15, 2019.
  2. Clear the road right-of-way abutting your property of weed growth and brush on an annual basis. The area to be maintained is to be a minimum distance of 14 feet off the traveled portion of the road and 14 feet above the road surface.
  3. Once you have cleared this area this year, notify WCRC. Prior to the herbicide spraying, WCRC will mark the start and end of your property using stakes and direct G & T Services to not spray the staked area.

If you have successfully completed these steps by the deadline, our contractor will not spray in the road right-of-way abutting your property. If you do not complete each step outlined above, WCRC reserves the right to spray the road right-of-way in the area abutting your property as part of this program.  

Click here for the “No Treatment Zone” Request Application. Copies are also available at the WCRC office.

How do I know if my area is targeted for spraying this year?

All county guardrails are sprayed annually in the spring. Approximately one-quarter of the rural county road right-of-way is sprayed annually. A given area will only be sprayed once every four years. The schedule for spraying over the next four years is as follows:

  • 2019 – Webster, Dexter, Lyndon, Sylvan, and Lima
  • 2020 – Salem, Northfield, Scio, Ann Arbor, and Superior
  • 2021 – Sharon, Freedom, Manchester, Bridgewater and Saline
  • 2022 – Ypsilanti, Pittsfield, Lodi, York, and Augusta

WCRC’s contractor, G & T Services is obligated to begin this work on or after August 1 each year. Herbicide operations are weather sensitive, so WCRC cannot determine the exact date the contractor will spray on any given road but the work is expected to be completed by the end of September each year. Further information is available through WCRC by contacting Adam Lape at (734) 327-6697, or lapea@wcroads.org.

How does your contractor prevent over-spray onto my property?

Our contractor is required to monitor wind conditions and will not spray if winds are above the designated threshold.

Is WCRC the only road agency to use herbicides along its road ways?

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) applies herbicide to state trunkline (highway) routes statewide. In addition to MDOT, multiple county road commissions apply herbicides to roadsides to manage roadside vegetation, including Muskegon, Kalamazoo, Clinton, Eaton, Tuscola, Saginaw, Hillsdale, and Delta Counties.