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|Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife|
New York's Green and Blue Highways Initiative Empowers Maintenance Staff
The Hornell region put up these route signs on a segment of Bicycle Route 14, which runs from the Pennsylvania border on the south to Lake Ontario on the north. Photo by NYSDOT.
NYSDOT partnered with The Nature Conservancy to improve this pulloff at Denton Preserve in Washington County. Photo by NYSDOT.
After weed-suppressive groundcover tests by Cornell University researchers, the Hudson region installed selected groundcovers in a traffic circle near the village of Saugerties. Photo by NYSDOT.
The Nassau South Residency on Long Island installed this "living snow fence" along the Ocean Parkway. Photo by NYSDOT.
Every year, the Green and Blue Highways Initiative supports local managers, regional highway maintenance workers, and maintenance environmental contacts with a $400,000 statewide fund for the regions and residencies (the frontline maintenance organizations within each region). Each region or residency selects a highway segment to participate in the program based on operational needs and environmental and cultural features. Maintenance staff then use a stewardship checklist to conduct a 1- to 2-hour "windshield survey" of the segment, after which they prepare a stewardship plan. Once the plan is approved, residency staff undertakes activities with help from regional staff or with funding for supplies and services the residency could not otherwise afford. The Initiative also simplifies environmental monitoring. Residency staff can evaluate stewardship activities on the spot and determine which activities are effective and which are not. Any noted deficiencies can be quickly corrected.
By early 2007, many of the 60 residencies selected a highway segment and proposed or completed environmental stewardship activities. Many of these activities were low or no cost. For example, Genesee/Orleans residency staff used a windshield survey to analyze erosion along the Lake Ontario Parkway and develop a simple solution to the problem. They merely changed their mowing patterns to avoid erosion-prone areas.
Whenever possible, maintenance regions and residencies have partnered with other groups to achieve common goals. When a local Nature Conservancy chapter needed help upgrading a parking lot at a Washington County preserve, this activity was added to the residency's work plan. To discourage littering and to improve access to the county's Champlain Canal, residency staff worked with local government, Scenic Byway staff, and the Canal Corporation to redesign a parking area next to the canal. In a project within NYSDOT's Syracuse Region, staff worked with the Department of Environmental Conservation to create safe access for persons with disabilities to the scenic falls at Labrador Hollow State Unique Area. Maintenance staff in the Hamilton County residency partnered with the Town of Long Lake to improve an abandoned snow and ice reloading area as a scenic pull-off by Shaw Pond on Route 28 North.
In a single year, the NYSDOT's maintenance staff made environmental improvements in more than 25 locations across the state. Some of these activities were simple, such as installing deer reflectors and bluebird boxes or relocating a dumpster and screening it with vegetation. Other activities were more complex, such as restoring a stream to protect Route 26 along the Otselic River. Many activities had to do with roadside vegetation management, such as using an over-the-rail mower (an alternative to herbicides), testing a weed-barrier system, and removing non-native invasive plants such as Asiatic bittersweet vines along parkways in the Lower Hudson Valley.
New York's Green and Blue Highways Initiative is more than a morale booster and empowering tool. The Initiative strengthens the link between environmental stewardship and maintenance activities, creating a more positive experience with environmental resource agencies. In the years to come, the Initiative will help the NYSDOT's maintenance staff to increase their good stewardship work without compromising highway-maintenance activity.
For more information contact: John Rowen, email@example.com (518) 457-4469