Roadside vegetation

Brush cutting in rural Clark County.

Cutting back tree branches and other vegetation in rural Clark County.

Public safety is the No. 1 priority for Clark County Public Works.

Grass, weeds, brush and tree limbs can obscure or block a driver’s view of stop signs and other traffic control devices, along with cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, wildlife and livestock.

​ Cut vegetation is quickly turned into roadside mulch. Cut vegetation is turned into roadside mulch. Click and drag to move​

Cut vegetation is turned into roadside mulch.

Clark County has a legal responsibility under a January 2016 Washington Supreme Court decision to cut roadside vegetation so it does not limit or block a driver's view.

In addition, trimming roadside vegetation will improve drainage and winter road maintenance, especially during snow and ice.

Public Works also cuts vegetation before summer road preservation projects so construction vehicles can get close to the curb in urban areas and up to the road's edge in rural areas.

Public Works uses a variety of techniques and equipment to manage roadside vegetation, including a mower that can cut roadside slopes and a larger brush cutter that can trim branches back several feet, with the debris turned into mulch.

Public Works does not publish a schedule for when vegetation will be cut along specific roads, primarily because the schedule changes frequently due to weather, equipment availability and the need to complete other work.

The department sends letters and uses door hangers to notify property owners that county road crews will cut roadside vegetation unless the owners want to trim it themselves.

 

Vegetation.jpg

Trimming requirements

All low-hanging vegetation needs to be trimmed to provide 14 feet of vertical clearance from the top of the road or curb, if present, and 8 feet of clearance from the full width of the sidewalk, if present. 

Bushes, shrubs and other low vegetation also need to be trimmed so they don’t hang over property lines or county roads.

If residents do not trim their vegetation, county road crews will cut it. There is no charge for this work, but it will not be done to a landscape quality desired by many residents.

For this reason, residents are encouraged to trim their vegetation.

Legal responsibility

The Washington Supreme Court, in a January 2016 unanimous decision, ruled that cities and counties have a legal responsibility to cut roadside vegetation that obscures or blocks a driver’s view.

The case stems from a June 2008 crash in King County where blackberry vines at an intersection obscured a driver's vision before she crashed into a motorcycle, seriously injuring the rider.

The decision's first two sentences make it clear that a local government's maintenance responsibilities do not begin and end at the pavement line:

"A municipality's duty to maintain its roadways in a reasonably safe condition for ordinary travel is not confined to the asphalt. If a wall of roadside vegetation makes the roadway unsafe by blocking a driver's view of oncoming traffic at an intersection, the municipality has a duty to take reasonable steps to address it."

The court further concluded that "we reaffirm that a municipality has a duty to take reasonable steps to remove or correct for hazardous conditions that make a roadway unsafe for ordinary travel and now explicitly hold this includes hazardous conditions created by roadside vegetation." 

Questions?

Please call Clark County Public Works at 360.397.2446 between 7 am and 5 pm Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.

For problems outside those hours, such as a tree or large branch on a county road, call 360.397.2446. That number is forwarded to an after-hours answering service that can dispatch crews.

For life-threatening emergencies, always call 911 immediately.

Related information

Roadside mowing in the Hazel Dell area.

Roadside mowing in the Hazel Dell area.