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Frequently Asked Questions

What is required to participate?
Your time and effort, it’s that easy! Participants may choose to do perform one or more of the following activities: 

  • Planting and establishing landscaping within interchanges, boulevards, rest areas, roadside parks, etc. 
  • Planting and establishing trees, shrubs, and/or flowers along state highways  
  • Planting and establishing wildflowers
  • Removing graffiti as needed from one or more highway structures 
  • Controlling weeds on Right-of-Way 
  • Ancillary mowing 
  • Tree trimming and or removal

Are you planning to use the Adopt-A-Landscape location for a future Commercial Billboard location?
If vegetation exists that would now or through normal growth in the future obstruct the face of a commercial billboard, the permit applicant and the adjacent property owner(s) must agree in writing that a commercial billboard will not be placed on property adjacent to or impacted by the Adopt-a-Landscape location for a period of 20 years. Specifically, the Adopt-a-Landscape program can not be used to create locations for or improve the visibility of commercial billboards.

Is there a fee?
Yes, there is a minimal permit fee based on the size and scale of the area being adopted. Volunteer groups/organizations may perform Adopt-a-Landscape activities and be charged a discounted permit fee or even have the fee waived in some cases. Participating groups generally provide for all costs, materials, labor, and equipment necessary for the project.

MDOT will supply the following items free of charge: 

  • Safety vests for volunteer participants.
  • Safety-training materials for group use.
  • Manufacture and installation of Adopt-a-Landscape signs when the appropriate distance is landscaped as follows:
    • On roadways where the speed limit is 45 miles per hour or less, one mile of landscaping is required for an Adopt-a-Landscape sign.  
    • On roadways where the speed limit is greater than 45 miles per hour, two miles of landscaping are required for an Adopt-a-Landscape sign.

Who is eligible?
Just about any group, business or individual may perform the work with your own volunteers or hire a contractor to perform the work on your behalf. There are limitations to the types of work and locations where volunteers may work.

If volunteers are to be used, the application must include a list identifying sufficient numbers of volunteers to complete the scope of work within an acceptable time period.

Depending on the adoption site and subject to MDOT approval, minors aged 16 and older may participate. Groups including minors must have at least one adult supervisor aged 21 or older for every three minors aged 16 and above.

Note: Commercial sign owners are prohibited from participating in the Adopt-A-Landscape Program and must comply with Public Act 106 of 1972.

How long do adoptions last?  
Adoptions for locations inside of rest areas require a one year commitment. However, adoptions for locations outside of rest areas require a five year commitment. You may extend the agreement provided that you (or your contractor) have satisfactorily met the terms of the permit and the site remains suitable for adoption. You may not transfer your permit to another organization.  

How do I adopt a landscape? 

  • Decide on the general location you want.
  • Discuss the location, project and context sensitive solutions involvement (Form 3727) with your local MDOT Transportation Service Center (TSC) Construction Permit Agent. Further review and consideration by other individuals and agencies may also be required.
  • Submit an individual permit application in the Construction Permit System (CPS) through the MDOT Permit Gateway (MPG) with the following:
    • Acceptance letters of activity from adjacent property owner(s) and the municipality or jurisdiction involved.
    • If hiring a contractor, the contractor's name shall be listed on the permit application.
    • If planting or vegetation control, work plans and schedules shall be submitted electronically with the permit application. Handouts and brochures are available from your TSC Construction Permit Agent and on the MDOT website with instructions for preparing plans/schedules.
    • Wait for your issued permit (signaling your acceptance into the program). This may take several weeks.
    • Make sure you understand and conform to all provisions listed in your individual permit.

What if the section of land I want is already adopted?  
Permits are issued on a first-come, first-served basis. You may wish to contact your TSC Construction Permit Agent or consider adopting another location. 

How do I get my group’s name on an Adopt-A-Landscape sign?
Adopt-A-Landscape acknowledgement signs may be provided by MDOT to recognize an adopting group’s contributions.

The sign's wording, size, color, font style, placement, and any subsequent modifications shall be solely determined and approved by MDOT. All signs must adhere to Federal Highway Administration guidelines.

Signs may not be provided for various types of projects. Examples where signs will not be provided include, but are not limited to:

  • Activities where only roadside mowing is performed.
  • Landscaping distances less than one mile and the speed limit is equal to or less than 45; landscaping distances less than two miles and the speed limit greater than 45.
  • Locations where the sign would interfere with existing traffic control devices or distract the driver’s attention.
Although there is inherent advertising value in Adopt-A-Landscape signs, the sign is not intended to be an advertising medium. The purpose of the sign is to recognize who is providing the adoption service, not what sponsors do or where they are located. Product names, logos, slogans, phone or fax numbers, e-mail or URLs, or directions are not permitted on recognition panels. 

What is an individual permit?
An individual permit and special provisions is your contract with MDOT. The permit authorizes you to perform specific tasks on a designated section of the state's right of way for a one-year period. The permit also includes safety measures that must be followed.  

Could my permit ever be revoked?  
Yes. Violation of any of the provisions of your permit could result in its cancellation. You, or MDOT, may cancel the permit anytime you are unable to meet the permit requirements. MDOT may cancel or temporarily suspend permits for safety reasons, such as construction in your adopted area or lack of maintenance. 

Will MDOT issue permits for multiple locations?
Yes. However, permits will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis. First-time permit applicants may be restricted in the number of permits issued. Once a permit applicant has an excellent performance history, there will be no restrictions on the number of permits issued. 

How does MDOT approve Adopt-A-Landscape requests?
Most roadside locations within Michigan’s highway system have potential for being adopted. MDOT personnel carefully review permit applications and requested locations in order to determine whether, or not, they are suitable.

Typical questions asked during a review are:

  • Is maintenance of the area currently being performed by another group?  
  • Is future construction planned for the location?
  • Is there community/stakeholder support for the proposed activities?  
  • Is there safe access to and from the site?
  • What are the working conditions at the site?
  • What work frequency will be required?  
  • Will the use of motorized equipment be required to accomplish the planting/maintenance work?  
Once a site is reviewed, it shall be classified as either suitable or not suitable for adoption. 

An important note about safety  
Safety is our number-one concern at MDOT. Participants must attend a safety meeting and each group must have a safety leader. Unless otherwise notified, MDOT considers the person who signed the Adopt-A-Landscape Permit Application to be the group's designated safety leader. For a full list of safety-related concerns, see the Adopt-a-Landscape Safety Requirement/Acknowledgement, (Form 3735). Participants must realize that they will be working in a potentially hazardous environment and agree to follow all safety requirements. Copies of the safety requirements and safety handouts can be downloaded from our MDOT website

Does adopting a landscape involve any insurance requirements?
Yes. A valid Certificate of Insurance shall be on file with MDOT for the duration of the permit and license agreement. 

Does adopting a landscape involve performance surety/bond requirements?
Depending on the scale of the project, a bond may be required.  

What Is CSS? 
In 2005, The Michigan State Transportation Commission formally adopted a Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) process as an integrated part of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) mission to provide the highest quality integrated transportation services for economic benefit and improved quality of life. Under CSS, MDOT solicits dialogue with local governments, road commissions, industry groups, land use advocates, and state agencies early in a project's planning phase. This dialogue helps to ensure that interchanges bridges, bike paths and other transportation projects “fit” into their communities. The CSS approach results in projects that respect a community's scenic, aesthetic, historic, economic, and environmental character.

It is necessary that Adopt-A-Landscape applicants notify, and if necessary engage property owners/stakeholders who are impacted by the proposed site adoption. The level of engagement and type of information required for each application will vary with the size, location, and level of adoption activity. The TSC construction permit staff can help determine the necessary level of engagement and documentation needed to permit the adoption of the landscape area. 

After I receive approval from my city’s offices, can I use the same site plan documents when applying for the MDOT permit?
Yes, we encourage you to use the same site plan documents - as approved by your city - along with the city’s approval letter, when applying for the MDOT permit. This will save you time and costs and will reduce MDOT’s review and approval time. 

What options do I have if the area I wish to adopt has already been adopted?
There are two options available for the applicant in this situation.

  • MDOT permit personnel may help with the selection of a nearby site that may meet the intent and proximity desired for your adoption. The alternate location would be subject to the same approval processes and requirements as the originally desired location. This may mean an increase in the stakeholder engagement activity necessary to comply with the CSS portion of the application, depending on the proximity and type of adjacent land use, who owns the property and how many stakeholders are involved. MDOT permit personnel can help with this determination.
  • MDOT can place your application for adoption on a waiting list. This would allow you the next opportunity to adopt this location when the current permit or license agreement expires and is not renewed. The next opportunity to adopt this location can also occur when MDOT revokes the permit or license agreement because the original applicant fails to comply with the requirements of the permit or license agreement. 

Are hardscape items allowed?
MDOT only issues Adopt-A-Landscape permits to municipalities when hardscape items or high maintenance items are included in the permit application. Rest areas are under the jurisdiction of MDOT, therefore MDOT acts as the municipality in this instance.   

Do volunteer groups have to go through this program?
Volunteer groups may participate in this program just like any other agency or group.  They also have the option of working directly with a Local governmental maintenance agency (under their contract/agreement) if they are undertaking a regular maintenance activity.  

Examples of regular maintenance activities are flowers in a rest area or flowers behind the curb in a city along a state highway.

What if a Master Gardener’s group wants to landscape within MDOT’s rest areas?
The following are the requirements when a Master Gardener’s club is the applicant:

  • All planting areas will be selected and agreed upon by the MDOT maintenance coordinator, region resource specialist, and the master gardener representative.
  • Irrigations shall be provided by MDOT prior to any purchase of planting material. Caution will be taken to insure the size of the area of responsibility will not exceed the ability of the master gardener’s group.
  • Most work areas shall be located close to the rest area building or in a safe location selected by MDOT away from highway traffic.
  • No work shall be located near the right-of-way fence. 
  • No heavy equipment shall be used for the installation.
  • Master gardener’s shall provide their requested plant list (wish list) in advance for MDOT approval and to insure that plant material vendors will be able to provide the approved selection. 

To initiate the process, Master Gardener Clubs need to submit the following documents electronically with an Individual Permit application in the Construction Permit System (CPS) through the MDOT Permit Gateway (MPG):

  • Site Plan Checklist, (Form 3737), not needed for volunteer groups or organizations unless a significant area is adopted (i.e. larger than a few plant beds), however a plant species list is required.
  • Maintenance Plan Checklist, (Form 3740), not needed for volunteer groups or organizations unless a significant area is adopted (i.e. larger than a few plant beds), however a plant species list is required.
  • Adopt-a-Landscape Safety Requirement/Acknowledgement, (Form 3735)
  • Context Sensitive Solutions, (Form 3727)
  • Context Sensitive Solutions Checklist, (Form 3739)

Note:  If a Master Gardener’s Club proposes to Adopt-a-Landscape outside MDOT’s rest areas then the following forms will be required along with the documents mentioned above: 

  • Adopt-a-Landscape Safety Requirement/Acknowledgement, (Form 3735)
  • Context Sensitive Solutions, (Form 3727)
  • Context Sensitive Solutions Checklist, (Form 3739)