Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Protecting Us from Flora

At what point did road side flora become a public nuisance? The roads of my childhood were always in bloom, with Tiger Swallowtails cruising for nectar and bees humming off to work the clover fields. We are allowing our cities, townships, parks and forest managers to groom our roadsides as if Ohio was the world's largest golf course.

Leave me a few flowers, please. I miss the butterflies on my daily walks. And if you are interested in helping us make a difference, feel free to use the following letter (written by my favorite radical) and adapt it for your city, park or town. Thanks Shelly- I am very proud of you.

Dear Editor:
As my husband and I took off for a relaxing bike ride along the bike path, my blood began to boil; huge swaths of the Hocking River Banks had been mowed- scalping the bank sides-from the Athens Public Library to the Habitat House. I was crushed. Usually I look for butterflies, birds and interesting insects along this section of the bike path because I don’t have the luxury of owning my own property yet. I saw a few birds and a few butterflies- all of which I could have found in my lawn at my apartment- but I couldn’t find any wild flowers, red-winged blackbirds, hummingbirds, finches, tree swallows or bluebirds. Usually these are easy to find along the bike trail along this section, but because of the mowing the habitat was missing and so were its inhabitants.

Some people don’t realize how such areas help our environment because they’re too blinded by the idea of nature needing to be controlled and manicured, like endless golf courses. Mowing such areas decreases biodiversity and such “scrub” also helps naturally filter run-off water (deeper roots than basic lawn grass) and prevent erosion. While manicured lawns have their places, it seems absurd to try to control the banks of the Hocking in such a way, particularly when this area of bike trail is so fully exposed to the sun; grass doesn’t fare very well during periods of little rain like we’ve seen this summer. It’d be nice to see more areas of such flowery “chaos” around town in places that really don’t ‘have’ to be mown.

I realize not everyone really cares about birds and insects and simply asking institutions such as the city, the university and the state to stop mowing for environmental and aesthetic reasons seems na├»ve. However, I do realize all of these institutions are having financial difficulties as we all hear the phrases “budget cuts” or “in-the-red” in the news in reference to Athens City, Ohio University and the State of Ohio. So, during such financially trying times, why would we continue to support wasting time and money on mowing and paying the individuals mowing, when that money and effort could be used in more significant ways? Couldn’t we just leave the bank sides alone and use that money and energy to improve other areas that have been so drastically cut? Better yet, has anyone really looked into the costs spent on such unnecessary mowing and how much might be saved by simply “neglecting" to mow in select areas? Meantime you’ll find me biking areas with more biodiversity.

Michelle Goodman


  1. Yeah..i can understand when the growth is obstructing view for oncoming traffic..
    but i think these people go a bit overboard.
    Great letter..
    did she have any response?

  2. The letter (to the editor) was published in the Athens newspaper and she has been having great response from friends and co-workers. Let's hope she can be the tipping point towards conserving some road side habitat. Greater Mohican Audubon has made raising awareness about mowing issues a goal for 2009.