County mowers extra busy

They've become a common sight on South Whidbey's roads this summer: Big lawn mowers inching along with mechanical arms and blades jutting out from the side, cutting and ripping down brush and bushes along the way.

South Whidbey's "lawnmower men" drive these machines every day throughout the growing season, maintaining the banks along the roads, and they will soon be driving new machines to mow roadside weeds that in past years have been sprayed with chemicals.

"The Bayview Road District, which ends at Freeland, encompasses 160 miles of roads -- double that for what is actually mowed -- that keep district personnel busy from May through October, said Myron Gabelein, Bayview Road district supervisor for Island County Public Works. Gabelein's staff mows South Whidbey's county roads all summer, weather dependent.

"With 160 road miles and 320 lane miles, our crew is busy all summer long," Gabelein said.

The mowers travel at about 2 to 3 mph, so as soon as the crew finishes it's almost time to start again.

"The mowers are going every day. Sometimes it takes a couple of passes over the same site," Gabelein said.

The new addition to the mowing fleet is expected later this summer. It is a grass mower designed especially to cut right up to the edge of the asphalt -- within two inches.

"With Island County's new no-spray policy, we will be using the new mower to keep the grass down on the shoulder," Gabelein said. "It is designed without an arm and is for use on flat areas."

Gabelein says it wasn't hard to stop the spraying.

"We had already stopped wherever people requested no spray," he said. "I live here too and have wells near the road. I am happy about it."

The new mower is expected to be in service by August. Four mowers were ordered by the county at a cost of about $42,000 each. Bayview will have one.

The state Department of Transporation is responsible for maintaining the roadsides of Highway 525.

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