Jacksonville, FL - It’s a program that’s supposed to make your drive easier on the eyes- but this year, is making it uglier than ever.
“[Medians] might just start looking a little worse than they normally do because we are still waiting for them [wildflowers] to bloom,” says Florida Department of Transportation Regional Public Affairs Director Gina Busscher.
Medians on many state roads are overgrown. WOKV first noticed the problem on Southside Boulevard and took our concerns straight to FDOT. Busscher says they have intentionally let the medians grow out in an effort to bloom wildflower seeds.
While she says they lay the seeds every year, it’s taking much longer to bloom this time, possibly because of the weather fluctuations and late freezes- and that’s taking a toll on medians.
“Might look a little scraggly right now,” she says.
And the problem is not just on state roads. WOKV found overgrowth along city roads as well, like AC Skinner.
According to information I’ve obtained from the City, the budget for mowing right-of-ways this fiscal year is down nearly $800,000 from last year when you include both the initial budget and supplemental funding given from the City Council after the budget was approved.
The $3.55 million budget is also being managed by a newly created Mowing & Landscaping Division, which the city says was formed “to consolidate all mowing under one division under Public Works to help with efficiency and to focus on city-wide beautification.” It was formed within this fiscal year. The budget allows for mowing to take place between four and twelve times a year, depending on whether the area is rural, suburban or urban.
As part of the information I received from my request to the City, I’m told AC Skinner is set to be mowed this week.
I’ve also requested an interview or statement from the City with respect to whether they believe current funding is enough to get the job done.
From the state’s perspective, Busscher says if the overgrowth were to become a health problem or excessively weedy, they would immediately intervene. Right now, they plan to wait until at least through this weekend- Easter weekend- to see if the flowers bloom.
“We’d like to see if these flowers will come up and give a little color to the area,” she says.
She says if there is still no bloom they will start to bring contractors out to mow beginning next week. If the flowers come through, however, they hope to let them be for several weeks, depending on how bad the other growth in the median becomes.
Between Easter and around November, these roads- which also include Normandy, Blanding and SR16 in Clay County and A1A in Nassau County- get mowed roughly once a month, according to Busscher. She says in the winter season they let the grass itself dictate how much mowing needs to take place.