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 way.
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.