The weeds in planting strips along a stretch of 52nd Avenue W in unincorporated Snohomish County took off over the summer before finally being cut back in September. County crews encourage people to report problem areas like these. (Contributed photos)

The weeds in planting strips along a stretch of 52nd Avenue W in unincorporated Snohomish County took off over the summer before finally being cut back in September. County crews encourage people to report problem areas like these. (Contributed photos)

What good are planting strips when all they grow are weeds?

When there’s no homeowner to maintain greenery next to a sidewalk, the county mows — but infrequently.

Street Smarts reader Erik Robins has concerns about lack of landscaping maintenance along sidewalks in unincorporated Snohomish County, particularly along 52nd Avenue W between Lynnwood and Mukilteo. He wonders if a solution could occur at the front end of road design projects — which is an interesting twist on an all-too-common complaint about overgrown sidewalks.

Robins wrote: “A few years ago, Beverly Park Road and 52nd Avenue W were widened. It included sidewalks, and the section in Snohomish County has planting strips between the sidewalk and the road. These have never been maintained and are overgrown with weeds. When strips like this are installed, there should be some plan for maintenance. It would look better if there was concrete instead of the ugly unmaintained strips.”

Soon after we heard from Robins, Snohomish County road crews went out and mowed the areas he pointed out.

Still, the weeds had gotten pretty long in the leaf by that point.

“My issue is not that the strips are unmaintained but that I think the county should expect that strips, in areas like this, will probably not be maintained and consider a different design,” Robins noted.

Planter strips are probably here to stay.

That’s because they fulfill a variety of roles, Snohomish County spokesman Matt Phelps said in a response.

“They add greenery and aesthetics to the infrastructure, provide an additional buffer between pedestrians and vehicles, help with drainage, and provide a place for a low impact development feature to filter pollutants. They also provide a location for items such as fire hydrants and signs so that they are not within the walking path of pedestrians,” Phelps said.

Homeowners are required by county and city codes to maintain planting strips, and complaints can be brought against those who don’t keep up.

In the spot Robins spotted, county road maintenance crews maintain the strips “on an as-needed basis,” Phelps said.

There can be months-long gaps in that work, as there was in this case.

“The road maintenance division maintains 1,600 miles of roads, so we do appreciate being notified of any strips that need attention and have to prioritize the sites,” Phelps said.

For unincorporated areas, you can call 425-388-7500 when you see planter strip areas that need maintenance.

Within city limits, contact your local code enforcement office.

Have a gripe? Email or call 425-339-3432. We’ll at least commiserate.

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