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Greenwood neighborhood appeals to city for ditch cleanup

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A group of neighbors worried that the trees growing up in the ditch near their home would cause an accident, and they were tired of seeing the trash, weeds and tall grass that was never maintained.

At least six residents in the Clearbrook Park neighborhood knew they wanted someone to take care of the weeds, trees and trash in the nearby Tracy ditch. But they weren’t sure who was responsible for mowing the grass and cutting down the weeds and saplings, and they didn’t know they paid a fee to the city to keep the ditch clean.

Now, after doing their research, they hope the city will use some of the more than $100,000 residents have paid in past years to cut down trees, mow the grass, and remove the weeds and trash.

The weeds and trees have grown tall in the ditch, blocking motorists’ line of sight on Apryl Drive near the neighborhood, resident Tim Huggins said. Drivers crossing Tracy Trail nearby can’t see the walkers and children on bicycles popping out from behind the brush in the ditch as they crossed the portion of the trail at the street, he said. And the weeds and trees are an eyesore, homeowners association board member Nat Ridge said.

The ditch starts behind Greenwood Community High School, is about 5 miles long and is one of 47 across the county, Surveyor Doug Lechner said. Landowners originally dug the ditches in the 1800s to drain the water table to make waterlogged land more useful for farming and building, Lechner said. the Clearbrook Park neighborhood, the ditch runs alongside Tracy Trail and collects water from the high school, nearby businesses, the post office and nearby homes. Each year, residents pay taxes meant to help cover the costs to maintain the ditch.

Last month, homeowners association board members asked Greenwood for the third time in about a year for help getting trees and weeds cut down in the ditch. Council member Brent Corey told the residents that the best the city could do would be to call Johnson County on their behalf because the county owns the ditch.

Then, after more than a year of asking, the residents finally got the answer they were looking for: the city was responsible for dredging the ditch, spraying for weeds and mowing, not the county.

In the past, the city had mowed sections of the ditch, but hadn’t gone in with a weed eater and chainsaw, which was done last week, deputy mayor Terry McLaughlin said.

Officials didn’t realize Greenwood was collecting taxes on the ditch to maintain it, he said. Greenwood made an agreement with the county in 1991 committing the city to maintaining the section of ditch and collecting $10 for each property that drains into the ditch to pay for maintenance work.

Greenwood is responsible for about a mile of Tracy ditch between the high school and Stop 18 Road, Lechner said.

The city last thoroughly cleaned out the ditch years ago, and has accumulated more than $118,000 from the fees it has collected from residents and businesses. The county $200,000 annually to maintain all the ditches, he said.

After learning the city was responsible for the ditch, Greenwood sent workers last week to clean up trash and cut down weeds and trees near Tracy Trail.

But nearby residents are still confused about where they should go for future ditch help, such as chopping down trees and picking up trash. And they’d still like to see the rest of the ditch cleaned out of brush, which look messy, Huggins said.

The city will reassess what maintenance the ditch needs in the spring, McLaughlin said.

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