Letter: No Mow

The summer tourist driving and biking season was still in full swing in the middle of August when many roadsides were mowed to the full width of the highway right-of-way. The timing and extent of the mowing process appears determined by the convenience of manpower scheduling and disregards scenic and environmental factors that are important. There are several strong reasons why roadside vegetation should be treated as an asset and not as a nuisance:

  • Scenic attraction. People come here to escape the urban and suburban environment. The Door County 2035 Plan reflects the desire of a large plurality of residents to maintain the rural character of the peninsula. The suburban appearance of shaved roadsides is in conflict with the rural objective. Masses of common wildflowers, such as Birdsfoot Trefoil, Chicory, daisies, asters, goldenrods, mustards and sunflowers, although largely nonnative, give visual enjoyment and a sense of being in the country to people passing by. Door County specifically attracts nature lovers with outstandingly showy flowers. These treasures merit protection, but are cut down by mowing before setting seed. Their numbers have fallen drastically in the past 20 years.
  • Biodiversity. Modern agriculture has resulted in ever larger fields, without hedgerows and (thanks to herbicides) without plants that can support migrating insects. Vegetated roadsides can serve as corridors providing shelter and food for wildlife that travels between seasonal habitats. For example, Monarch Butterflies and hummingbirds migrating in early fall require fuel in the form of nectar and pollen. Roadsides contain plentiful milkweed to support the development of Monarch Butterflies. Cutting down the milkweed plants upon which larvae are developing contributes to the decline of this widely cherished butterfly. In addition ground-nesting birds are disrupted by early mowing.
  • Agriculture. Pollinators, especially native bees, need food in the form of pollen and nectar all summer long after their work in the orchards and fields is done. Farm fields provide no nectar after alfalfa is mowed and conventional garden plants provide little nectar. The nourishment that the native bees obtain from wildflowers at the sides of the roads ensures their survival until the following spring.
  • Health. Ragweed pollen causes respiratory misery for many people. The ragweed plant does not compete well with other vegetation and thrives along the pavement where grass has been cut short. The air currents generated at the highway help the ragweed pollen to become airborne.
  • Safety. Nocturnal animal/car collisions are likely to be increased when animals do not have the option to retreat into cover when a car approaches.
  • Cost. The magnitude of current expenditures for highway mowing cannot be justified to the taxpayers, especially considering that the money spent is to some extent used against the public interests.

We are sending copies of this letter to decision makers at the county and municipal levels requesting:

  1. Limitation of mowing during summer and into September to a 2-3’ strip along the pavement and as needed at intersections that feature unusually high or dense vegetation.
  2. Full width mowing of the rights-of-way of all roads between mid-September and the end of October.
  3. Reduction of the mowing budgets by approximately one third in order to provide for the changes.

We invite readers to register their agreement at the DPO website ( Comments and opposing views will also be welcome.

Michael Serpe, President, Door Property Owners Inc.; and Peter Sigmann, President, Door County Chapter of Wild Ones Natural Landscapes

Sturgeon Bay, Wis.

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