The Road Newsletter- April


April 2018 | Volume 8 | Issue 4 | Bookmark and Share

Invasive Species on the Roadside

What are Invasive Species?

Invasive species are defined as non-native plants or animals that can cause harm to the local environment. There are many non-native species that have been introduced to Michigan that do not cause harm, or are a benefit, but invasive species are those that can cause harm to the local environment, economy, and even public health.

The Road Commission is concerned with invasive species because they can often take hold along roadside ditches and shoulders, potentially compromising road drainage and roadway integrity. Invasive plant species usually out-compete native plants and can quickly spread and take over an area. Many invasive species of plants are toxic to animals, including insects such as butterflies, that use plants for reproducing. Once an invasive plant becomes established, it can quickly spread and kill off valuable native plants in the area, disrupting drainage systems as well as the local ecosystem. Because of these reasons, the Road Commission is committed to properly managing invasive species, helping stop their spread and preventing future growth.

Managing Invasive Species on the Roadside.

The biggest hurdle in preventing and managing invasive species is the proper identification and management technique for each species. Traditional methods of managing the roadways, primarily through mowing, will not work for most invasive species. Many require multiple chemical treatments during a specific time of year to fully kill the plant and prevent its regrowth. Since the Road Commission is limited in its knowledge and resources to focus on these invasive species, another solution was needed to help manage them. 



The Ottawa County Road Commission’s Solution for Invasive Species Management.

 In 2014, the Road Commission began talks with the Ottawa Conservation District about invasive plants along county roads. After identifying several areas that required treatment, the Road Commission and the Ottawa Conservation District formed an agreement that has been renewed for the last three years.

 This partnership gives the Ottawa Conservation District permission to identify and treat areas with invasive plant species along roads that the Road Commission manages. The Conservation District can then acquire grant money that’s available to combat invasive species. This program helps save the Road Commission money and resources in managing the plants in the right-of-way, and it also allows the Conservation District to eradicate plants on the roadsides before they can spread to other areas. 

Invasive Species Management in Ottawa County.


The Ottawa Conservation District identified four invasive species that they would look for and treat along county roads. They are: Japanese Knotweed, Phragmites, Chinese Yam, and Black and Pale Swallow-wort. All these plants have been identified at the state level as being invasive species that cause harm to the environment.

The most prevalent, and probably most dangerous, invasive plant species in Michigan, and in Ottawa County, is the Japanese Knotweed. This plant is known to have established itself in Michigan. It is very aggressive and because of its size and chemical composition it can quickly and easily out-compete native species. It is toxic to animals and humans. One of the biggest concerns with knotweed is that through its aggressive growth and extensive root system, it can cause damage to buildings, sidewalks, and roads.

Knotweed is very resilient and difficult to kill. In fact, mowing it, especially at certain times of the year, can help spread its growth. It requires specific herbicides and multiple treatments before it can be mowed. Since the Ottawa Conservation District has the knowledge and resources to manage knotweed, they have been a big benefit to managing knotweed along county roads.

Because of the prevalence and threat of invasive species, the Road Commission needed a more comprehensive plan to manage invasive species along county roads. Partnering with the Ottawa Conservation District has proven to be successful and beneficial for both parties and for the residents of Ottawa County.

You can find out more information about the Ottawa Conservation District by visiting their website: To learn more about invasive species in Michigan you can visit: If you think that you may have Japanese Knotweed or any other invasive plant on your property, be sure to contact the Ottawa Conservation District to learn about management options.  

Knotweed can quickly take over a roadside

Understanding Road Right-of-Way

In the spring many homeowners start undertaking landscaping projects in their yards but remember to keep in mind the activities you do in the road right-of-way. 


What is the road right-of-way?

The road right-of-way is the piece of land on either side of a public road. This area is used by the Road Commission to ensure the safety of drivers and improve the road. Road right-of-way is also utilized by townships and the parks department to place non-motorized paths and sidewalks. It is used to place utilities, such as telephone and cable lines. Maintaining the right-of-way is the responsibility of the Road Commission, to make sure that anything placed there, or work done in the right-of-way is not going to be hazardous to drivers.

The size of the right-of-way can vary depending on the type of road and other circumstances. A typical right-of-way is 66’ wide (33’ from the centerline on each side of the road). But this is not always the case, so homeowners are encouraged to verify the right-of-way on their property before doing any work.

What can, or can’t I do in the right-of-way?

To ensure the safety of the public, the Road Commission is mandated by law to be the caretakers of the right-of-way. The law also states that any work performed in the road right-of-way requires a permit from the Road Commission to keep the road safe for public travel. Objects placed in the right-of-way can become a hazard and make it difficult to improve the road, pathway, or utility installations in the right-of-way. Some examples of the types of work that require a permit are:

 ·        Adding or improving a driveway approach

·        Adding, improving, or maintaining a public or private utility

·        Adding or improving a sidewalk or non-motorized path

·        Adding storm water to or improving a roadside drainage system

·        Surveying and other engineering operations

·        Placing a banner, decoration, or similar object

·        Grading or excavation, landscaping, tree planting, tree trimming or tree removal

·        Any construction activity that impacts storm water runoff into or  around county road right-of-way

Permanent landscaping objects, such as fencing, are not generally allowed in the right-of-way and can be removed by the Road Commission if they are placed without a permit. Mailboxes are always allowed in the road right-of-way, without a permit, if they conform with the specifications from the Road Commission and the US Postal Service.

So, remember this spring, when you are planning to do lawn work and landscaping improvements, to know where the right-of-way is and obtain a permit if necessary from the Road Commission. By doing this you can help the Road Commission in maintaining the right-of-way and keeping the roads safe for drivers. Please contact the Road Commission if you have any questions regarding right-of-way work.

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Important Dates:

Thursday- April 12, 2018 | 9AM | Board Meeting
Thursday – April 26, 2018 | 9AM | Board Meeting

View Meeting Minutes and Agendas Here