An Integrated Approach to Establishing Native Plants and Pollinator Habitat
2.2 Preliminary Tasks of Initiation
Roadside revegetation is a complex process, frequently involving numerous agencies and individuals. Appointing a single designer to coordinate the planning, implementing, and monitoring/adaptive management of the revegetation aspects of the road project can help streamline revegetation coordination. Typically, the designer will be the responsible professional landscape architect or civil engineer in charge of sealing the revegetation documents and is required to be directly involved with the design and supervision of others who are assisting in the preparation of the design documents. Depending on the training and expertise of the designer, the project scale, level of environmental impacts of the project, and level of political and public scrutiny, the designer and owner of the project are often best served by enlisting experts from other natural resource disciplines to help with the revegetation planning so that expertise in botany, plant genetics, horticultural practices, landscape architecture, soil science, engineering, hydrology, wildlife biology (including pollinator specialists), geology, and ecology is available for the project as necessary. Project quality and efficiency is enhanced when the designer is the coordinator of the technical and organizational aspects of the revegetation project, as well as the contact between revegetation efforts and the other aspects of road planning and construction.
2.2.1 Defining Cooperators Processes, Timelines, and Milestones
Designer due diligence early in the project planning process includes identification of the reviewing agencies and individuals involved in the road construction project, along with their respective roles and responsibilities. It is especially important to understand: (1) who are the actual decision-makers, (2) who is the land owning agency, (3) who maintains the road and roadsides, (4) who will be carrying out the road construction project, and (5) who is funding the project. Sometimes, the actual decision-makers are not the same people who are attending the design meetings. It can be important for the designer and design team to confirm the agency organizational dynamics and to get key design direction approvals in writing at the appropriate times in the planning and design process.
An understanding that the timing, responsibilities, and, most important, the plan review and approval processes associated with each agency will vary, will allow the designer to plan, communicate, and interact more effectively with the right people at the right time. While this may seem complicated, many agencies have a procedural manual that describes how a project is carried out from conception to completion, defining the timelines, milestones, roles and responsibilities, terminology, and how funding works. Most current documents are online, however, some may only be available in hardcopy upon request. The designer may want to confirm the location of current documents with the reviewing agencies. Location and use of these documents and agency manuals to help create a project schedule can be a key due diligence item for the designer. Initial meetings with owners, maintainers, and agency plan reviewers are also beneficial for the designer, as they can create relationships that strengthen the lines of communication during the project, and are an ideal time to clarify project requirements, expectations, and various cooperator processes.
Each agency has certain approvals and procedural activities, including some that involve fulfilling environmental regulations. Early designer due diligence may include defining these activities and determining how revegetation work fits within them. The steps in the approval process are often important milestones for the agency, and they expect the designer to have that understanding and to provide input at appropriate times. Defining appropriate roles can help the designer to coordinate with the proper people, follow protocols, and avoid duplicating efforts.
Many variables affect the overall timelines from inception to construction. Timelines vary depending on the complexity of the project, the amount of controversy involved, and the availability of funds. Some projects take less than two years, while some can take over ten years. Reviewing Figure 2-1 with the assigned road project engineer and discussing milestones, timelines, procedures, budgets, and roles can be an effective approach to getting oriented to the complex process of road development.
2.2.2 Defining Objectives: What is the Project Trying to Accomplish?
Once the agencies and processes for each phase of the project are clarified, the designer can begin to understand how their work relates to the overall objectives of the project. Objectives can be found in the programming documents that originally identified the need for the project. These objectives often center on improving safety or updating the road infrastructure. Phase One of the planning process (Chapter 3) describes how to identify the objectives of the road project and translate them into specific goals for revegetation.
Environmental protection, pollinator habitat creation, and maximizing the ability of the roadside to regenerate native vegetation are primary revegetation goals. When a revegetation designer is involved early in a project, when disturbances to soil and vegetation are planned, the designer can be a key link to understanding the potential disturbances that might be caused and how to best minimize or mitigate them. The designer, with specialist input, can help the roadway engineer understand what types of disturbances can be feasibly revegetated with native plants. If a disturbance to soil and vegetation will not allow for revegetation, alternatives to that type of disturbance can be considered. Specialist input can be crucial for determining potential strategies and alternatives. The project objectives also help determine the types of native vegetation that are most appropriate for the work. Revegetation design solutions can vary widely depending if the project crosses a wildlife corridor, is a scenic drive, is in an ecologically sensitive area with more intensive recovery needed, travels through open farm land, or contains steep slopes.
Safety, efficiency, protecting and enhancing environmental health, and creating habitat for pollinators are all important priorities in road projects. While safety concerns may at times limit what is appropriate in roadside revegetation (e.g., tall trees along a roadside may be a desirable choice from an environmental and aesthetic standpoint, but may not from a safety or visibility standpoint), experienced design professionals recommend that these concerns not be viewed as an impediment to successfully revegetating roadsides. Experts do recommend that the designer coordinate early with the roadway engineer to gain a full understanding of safety issues, particularly regarding visibility and the ability of drivers to recover if they drive off the road and into the roadside area (see discussion of how to define roadside revegetation zones in Chapter 3).