Weeds: Overgrowth in public areas impacts community

Weeds are creeping, growing through fences and landscaping and stealthily taking over unorthodox spots around the city.

When weeds take over parts of a community, it not only affects the way a city looks, but can also affect its health. They are not only cringe-worthy to look at, they can draw in all manner of creatures that thrive in high, weedy areas, like rats, according to city officials.

There are a few spots through town that have become unruly and overgrown, and the city along with a few area residents are trying to combat the problem.

Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, said that along Virginia Street, the city has been doing great work.

“We had a park along Virginia Street that was overgrown,” he said. “There was an issue with invasive weeds, and the fact that we have the Ohio River, which you couldn’t see.”

Vukovic said a reach mower has really helped keep the weeds trimmed down.

“My constituents are very pleased that’s been taken care of,” he said. “I think the (city) did great work on Virginia Street…It’s a great place to sit, eat and watch the river.”

Councilman Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward, said vermin are especially drawn to weedy areas.

“You can get groundhogs, rats and snakes,” he said. “Having rats in a neighborhood is not a good thing.”

Along the River Trail, behind the Hart Street condos, lies some landscaping put in during phase three of the River Trail project. The landscaping, while neat at one time, became overgrown and unruly.

Barbara Boyce, 74, a resident of the Hart Street condos, said she noticed the problem growing out of control.

“We looked at it and it kept getting worse and worse,” she said. “One of the members (of the Friends of the River Trail) said, ‘I’ll pay for someone to go down (and clean it up).’ But that’s not fair.”

A group of Marietta College students and community volunteers got together over the weekend to make sure the landscaping along the condos was put into top shape. Residents of the condos also did some work mid-week last week to bring the weeds to order.

Gone are the unruly weeds and fresh mulch was added back to a neater row of bushes.

Kalter also said that poison ivy has been seen, and not only along the trail.

“We have a problem on the trail of a tree covered with poison ivy (near the waste water treatment plant),” said Kalter. “It’s all over the trail. It’s in Indian Acres park and down by the Lafayette (Hotel).”

Hart Street condo resident Wei Sheng agreed there are some maintenance issues.

“In my opinion the trail is nice (but) the weeds are a city problem,” he said. “(The landscaping can be) very hard to mow around.”

Sheng said that the city needs to look at how it takes care of places like the trail.

“If you build more trails, you make more work,” he said. “(The city) should probably have someone full-time (to take care of the trail).”

Another overgrown area is landscaping near a retaining wall where Advantage Bank used to sit in the Lafayette Shopping Center. The bank was consolidated into the Third Street location earlier this year.

The landscaping to the front of the building is well-kept, but weeds are flowing down the retaining wall toward Jefferson Street, and small trees are popping up through the bushes. The property is owned by Huntington Bank and not taken care of by the city.

Maureen Brown, spokeswoman for Huntington Bank, said the company does own the property and leases it, making them responsible for upkeep.

“We are responsible for (the maintenance),” she said. “We are asking (landscapers) to be regular on their schedule and clean it up.”

It should be weeded and maintained later this week, Brown said.

City ordinance 254 requires that noxious weeds and grass be maintained by owners, lessees, agents or tenants in sublots in subdivisions, property lying within 20 feet and adjacent to residential or commercial buildings and land within 100 feet of a dedicated thoroughfare.

Weeds should be cut at least four times a year, starting in April and ending in September.

If this is not maintained, the city’s safety-service director can issue a violation to the owner of the property and weeds should be removed within 15 days. Failure to comply may result in the director having city crews cut weeds down. A statement of costs will then be mailed to the owner, with a minimum fee of $40. Ultimately a lien could be put upon the property and failure to comply with paying costs could result in a minor misdemeanor.

Vukovic said another area that use some help with weeds is above the Washington Street Bridge on Gilman Avenue.

“(The goal has been) to create ‘windows’ above Washington Street (to see the river),” Vukovic said. “Quite a few years ago, the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure (members) said one of the things they really liked (about the city) was river access…I had some boy scouts helping me (clear space for the windows) but it’s a pretty overwhelming job. It takes a lot of resources…The (city) administration is willing (to do the windows), it just hasn’t happened because a lack of manpower.”

According to the city health department, there have been no formal complaints about weeds and overgrowth along city property or businesses in the city.

Eric Lambert, project engineer with the city engineering department, said that lately it’s been an uphill battle for the lands, buildings and parks department for just grass upkeep because of wet weather, which means other areas might be seeing less emphasis.

“The amount of mowing has been intensive this year,” he said. “You’ve only got so many hours in the day (to get things done). You just do your best to fight the fight.”

Tanner Huffman, public facilities foreman, said in addition to that, staffing is a problem.

“We’re trying our hardest,” he said. “There’s not enough people; we’re short staffed. There’s no way around it…The guys are getting what they can get…(but) there’s not enough bodies to keep up with (all of) the weeds.”

Mayor Joe Matthews said there is some summer help working with the public facilities to keep everything under control, but there is no way to hire more people to the staff, or transfer anyone over from another department.

“We can’t hire anybody else,” he said. “There’s no extra money…I’d love to hire more people…In a perfect world, I’d love to hire more people in every department…Maybe in next year’s budget we can do something.”

Matt Schaad, equipment operator with the lands, buildings and parks department, said for the most part, things are looking well-groomed around the city.

“I’m sure there’s a spot or two here or there (that needs work),” he said. “Right now, everything’s looking pretty good…Lands, buildings and parks have done their fair share to keep (the city) clean.”

Kalter said in the end, it’s up to everyone to help the community look its best.

“There needs to be a partnership between the city, the county and the people that live here,” he said. “I was raised to believe we need to take care of our community. This is our city; if we don’t take care of it, who will?”