TOLEDO, Ohio — There is progress on a Call 11 for Action story WTOL 11 reported on Sept. 5.
Rhonda Hayes of south Toledo was dealing with vermin and weeds, some of them potentially toxic. Hayes, who has lived in her home for 36 years, said all the vermin, weeds and junk started just a couple of years ago when Norfolk Southern stopped using its railroad track on the other side of her fence.
Hayes' situation saw some development after the Call for 11 Action report, but she said she is still looking for a more permanent solution.
"Three men came and weed whacked, probably half of them off of the top, just from my yard to the end," she said.
Call 11 for Action visited Hayes' home on Sept. 12 when a landscaping crew showed up to trim weeds and brush from the railroad tracks behind her home on Hinsdale Drive.
Hayes had been calling Norfolk Southern to clean up the mess, but following a Lucas County property records search, Call 11 for Action found the University of Toledo has owned the property since 2011.
We let UT know it was overgrown, so it hired the crew and university spokesperson Tyrel Linkhorn sent Call 11 for Action the following statement:
"Maintenance and grounds crews from The University of Toledo typically mow the full former railway property once or twice a summer. Crews do regularly monitor for areas that need additional attention and resolve those problem spots as they are identified. We are committed to being a good neighbor and working to ensure all properties we own are properly maintained, and that any concerns brought to our attention are quickly addressed."
Hayes said she is not happy with the work.
"Things weren't all the way cut," she said. "And you know that's gonna all grow back."
Call 11 for Action did see improvement, including shorter weeds, but there is still an old bicycle buried in feet of brush, as well as a microwave sitting next to the tracks.
But what really bothers Hayes is the noxious weeds she said have made her sick.
"When it blows it can go in your lungs," she said.
The state of Ohio lists 21 weeds as noxious, defined as plants that are harmful to crops, livestock or human health. Poison hemlock is on the state's list and that's what Hayes has identified in her yard.
State law indicates a property's manager is responsible for removing noxious weeds along toll roads and railroads. According to the Ohio Revised Code 4959.11:
"Ohio law requires the superintendent or manager to destroy noxious weeds, brush, briers, burrs and vines according to the same schedule of noxious weeds along roadways."
The schedule states cutting "must be done between June 1 and 20, August 1 and 20, and if necessary, September 1 and 20 or whenever it's necessary to destroy the vegetation to prevent or eliminate a safety hazard."
The law further explains a municipality may remove the weeds and bill the owner of the property for the costs.
Call 11 for Action reached out to the city of Toledo and Hayes' city council representative, Matt Cherry, to ask whether UT will be held accountable for not just trimming, but removing the weeds, brush and debris. As of Sept. 19, we have not heard back.
UT purchased the land in 2011 to develop a multi-use trail, but university officials said the trail isn't happening anytime soon.
"The rail corridor is part of the overall masterplan related to multi-use trail corridor development," Linkhorn said. "The University of Toledo is part of an MOU with the city of Toledo, Metroparks Toledo, TMACOG, the Port Authority and Wood County Park District. It is an ongoing process that will take multiple years. Nothing is planned in that stretch of corridor in the near future."
State Sen. Paula Hicks-Hudson, (D-Toledo) reached out to Call 11 for Action after our first report aired Sept. 5.
Hayes said she spoke to a representative in Hicks-Hudson's office about the issue. The same representative told Call 11 for Action the senator would reach out to UT's government relations office about the situation.
"The University of Toledo must be held to the same standard that any property owner whose neglect leads to their property becoming a nuisance for the community," Hicks-Hudson said. "It is not enough to trim back the overgrown plants and spray for vermin. There must be accountability. Officials from the University need to meet with the people in this neighborhood. They deserve to have their complaints and concerns heard and addressed by the ones causing the problem. They need to work with the people of this neighborhood on long term solutions that benefit and satisfy those affected."
On Tuesday, Linkhorn provided Call 11 for Action with another update:
"In addition to cutting back the tall grass, our grounds crews have sprayed the area for weeds. The University will send a crew to check the area again in response to the question about garbage. As previously noted, we are committed to being a good neighbor and working to ensure all properties we own are properly maintained. Individuals with a concern about the former railroad property in south Toledo, or any other properties the University owns, can contact us by calling 419.530.1000 or via email at email@example.com. We are committed to quickly addressing concerns brought to our attention."
Stay with WTOL 11 for updates as the story develops.
MORE FROM CALL 11 FOR ACTION