Development of a Program

The simplest approach to developing a program is to think through all the program details with your staff, community members, and stakeholders. Here are some decisions that will need to be made.

Name of the program

Example roadside program names include Shelby County Roadside Management, Dallas County Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management Program, Linn County Right of Way Vegetation Management Program, and City of Center Point IRVM Program.

Goals and objectives

Goals are broad, long-term outcomes while objectives are shorter term, measurable actions to achieve goals.

Examples of roadside program goals from IRVM plans are listed below. Some programs further break these down into short-term goals (e.g., 0–5 years), medium-term goals (e.g., 5–10 years), and long-term goals (e.g., 10–20 years). 

  • Recognize and stop the spread of newly introduced invasive plant species countywide. These species need to be controlled before they become a major problem.
  • Minimize the need and use of herbicides and other chemical controls as methods for managing or eliminating undesirable plants. This includes incorporation of prescribed burning, spot-spraying, and strategic use of herbicides, pesticides, mowing, and tree removal.
  • Use a long-term integrated management program that promotes desirable, self-sustaining plant communities. Whenever practicable, native plant communities are incorporated with roadside vegetation plantings.
  • Enhance the scenic qualities of roadsides and their value as habitat for wildlife.
  • Provide a public relations program to build community support for the roadside management program.
  • Develop a neighborly policy for dealing with right-of-way encroachment issues.
  • Preserve and manage remnant prairie plant communities in the ROW through monitoring, prescribed fire, and brush removal.
  • Stabilize county road construction projects by seeding and providing adequate erosion control. Each site will be evaluated and cared for on an individual basis.

Examples of specific, measurable roadside program objectives (from the Dallas County IRVM plan) are listed below:

  • Spray at least 30 gallons of basal bark material annually. Encourage district operators to perform these treatments.
  • Monitor mowing operations conducted by secondary road personnel and make recommendations as requested. Encourage prescribed use of this technique to limit impact on plant and animal resources in right-of-way and keep Road Department in adherence with Iowa Code 314.17.
  • Mow all first-year plantings once during the growing season. Mowing will be conducted between late June and early August. Mow second-year and older plantings as necessity and manpower dictate.
  • Update website annually. Provide two press releases per year to local newspapers. Provide public service announcements and other opportunities for coverage as available.

To get ideas for other goals and objectives that would be appropriate for your county or city, look at approved IRVM plans that are online. All of the plans should include goals and some plans will also have objectives. 

Staffing and the percentage of time each staff members will dedicate to the program

Identify what staff member will implement the plan. County or city officials will sometimes have someone who is already on staff implement the plan, but counties will more often create a separate roadside vegetation manager position. 

Ideally the roadside manager who is hired will have wide-ranging knowledge and skills. The best candidates have a strong equipment background and good communications skills. Experience with natural resources, vegetation, or both is an important bonus. Candidates must like a challenge and be willing to learn as they go. It’s best to have the roadside manager on board before developing the county’s IRVM plan or conducting the roadside vegetation inventory. A generic position description can be personalized to fit your county’s situation. 

Roadside managers will be more efficient and able to get more done if they have the assistance of a permanent or temporary technician and summer help; most counties have at least 2,500 acres of roadside vegetation to manage. If budgets allow, a roadside program will employ:

  • A full-time vegetation specialist/roadside manager.
  • A full-time or 9-month roadside technician/assistant roadside manager.
  • Two seasonal employees.

Results from the latest roadside manager salary survey can help when budgeting for roadside manager, assistant, and summer help positions. Funding sources for roadside vegetation manager positions include the rural basic fund, secondary road fund, road clearing appropriation, and county conservation board.


Roadside manager insights

Creating a new position for a roadside manager might be difficult. So a realistic inventory of existing personnel may help. Who has a green thumb? Who has the political savvy to survive? After appointing a roadside manager, an inventory of equipment and facilities is next. It’s way easier to start a program if existing tractors, trucks, etc. can be used at first. When times get better, the program can grow. At the end of the day the program survives on the relationships with the county engineer, BOS, etc.

-Joe Kooiker, Story County, 2024


Advisory committee: community partners who can help you with referrals, advertising, and implementation

An IRVM steering committee, also known as an advisory committee, meets regularly to provide guidance to the roadside program and be kept informed about the roadside program’s activities and challenges. They are also helpful for communicating about the benefits of having a program within the community and providing political support as needed. 

Steering committees may be formed at any time but most often arise from a committee formed during the initial effort to establish a program or shortly before or after a roadside manager is hired. Committees typically meet between two and four times a year and consist of between five and ten members representing the private and public sector. The committee may consist of the following members:

  • A member of the board of supervisors (highly recommend at least one).
  • County engineer.
  • Road superintendent/foreman.
  • Weed commissioner if this is a separate position from the roadside manager.
  • A member of the conservation board.
  • Key members of the original committee formed to establish a roadside program
  • Educator.
  • Soil and Water County Conservation District representative.

The county engineer, conservation board director, or initial IRVM committee members may recommend people to appoint but the board of supervisors has the ultimate authority for appointing members, who often serve three-year staggered terms. An example initial setup for appointments is below. Once all of the 1-year-term people serve, then three people are elected for 3-year terms and once all of the 2-year term people serve, then three people are elected for 3-year terms.

3 persons — 1-year term

3 persons — 2-year term

4 persons — 3-year term

Committees elect a chairperson and secretary and meetings are subject to Chapters 21 and 22 of the Iowa Code concerning open meetings and public records. 

Program organization/location

When deciding where to locate a county roadside program and who should supervise the roadside manager, keep in mind that greater independence allows for better planning and timely operations. Sometimes reorganizing within a department or restructuring of departments is necessary to give roadside management personnel the autonomy to meet objectives. County programs operate successfully within the engineer’s office, the county conservation board, or as an independent department. All three have advantages.

A diagram showing organizational options for structuring a county roadside program.

 

Generating support for the program

The "Communication" section has many ideas for developing and maintaining both internal and public support for a program. Members of a steering or advisory committee can generate goodwill toward the program by communicating within their networks; regular communication with the committee is important so they know about the roadside managers’ projects and what type of information to relay.

Working on projects that visibly show progress in a relatively short amount of time, such as brush control or seedings with signage, can help garner support for a new program. The appropriate level and type of publicity for a new program can vary depending on the county or city’s goals and progress on specific projects.


Roadside manager insights

I wouldn’t over-publicize a new program. It can bring too much scrutiny and pressure. Hire or appoint a roadside manager and do some visible projects (seedings, erosion control, tree removal, etc.). Then promote the program through finished works.

-Jeff Chase, Des Moines County, 2010


Evaluating the success of the program

Completing an IRVM plan and a county vegetation survey can identify goals and objectives that serve as the basis for evaluating the program. Examples of ways counties have evaluated aspects of program success include:

  • Comparing results of county-wide roadside vegetation inventories.
  • Creating project reports documenting plant establishment on an annual basis for larger (more than one acre) plantings on hard-surfaced roads.
  • Evaluating effectiveness of herbicides and other weed control measures in managing problem areas with a lot of invasive species.
  • The IRVM advisory committee discussing the program progress on an annual basis at one of its regular meetings.

Budget

These items may need to be included when anticipating the cost of a program:

  • Salary full-time roadside manager.
  • Salary full-time technician.
  • Salary temporary assistants.
  • Overtime full-time roadside manager.
  • Overtime full-time technician.
  • Overtime temporary assistants.
  • Contract labor.
  • FICA — county or city contribution.
  • IPERS — county or city contribution.
  • Health insurance.
  • Life insurance.
  • Dental insurance.
  • Long-term disability.
  • Chemicals and gases — herbicides.
  • Stationary and forms.
  • Minor equipment and hand tools.
  • Education and training.
  • Operations and construction equipment.
  • Fertilizer and seed.