With construction spending down, a lot of landscape contractors have been focusing more on their maintenance divisions. Dinkelman Landscaping in Carlyle, IL, is no exception. But their story is a little bit different. Rather than just mowing more lawns, they’re knocking down trees and maintaining easements for pipeline and utility companies.
“We typically maintain a 50-foot easement—25 feet on either side of the pipeline,” says owner Terry Dinkelman Sr. “This right-of-way maintenance service requires mowing, removing trees and grinding out stumps, and sometimes replanting the area with biological deer plot mix or maybe a pasture grass so the easement looks better, is easier to maintain and is eco-friendly.”
Dinkelman Landscaping has also begun doing power line right-of-way clearing for utility companies. “It’s not a big part of our business just yet, but the ice storms that swept through Kentucky and the Northeast this past January have people thinking more about safety when it comes to tree limbs and electrical lines,” Terry Sr. says. “We have every reason to believe this business will grow for us.”
GETTING THE RIGHT-OF-WAY
Pipeline right-of-way maintenance has already been growing for the past four years, and today accounts for 65% of Dinkelman Landscaping’s total sales. Terry Dinkelman Jr., who manages the company’s right-of-way division, is confident this positive trend will continue.
“The population keeps growing, and people are always going to need fuel,” Terry Jr. says. “Also, with stricter regulations and an increased focus on disaster planning, the government needs these pipeline easements cleared out and maintained.”
Terry Sr. understands that concept all too well. He actually worked for a pipeline company for several years while also doing some landscaping on the side. “Mowing yards and doing some smaller installations helped put the kids through college,” he relates. “I even had one really big job where I put in a baseball field for a local junior high school, including the irrigation system.”
That project helped elevate Terry Sr.’s profile as an area landscaper. By late-2000 he decided it was time to make landscaping his full-time career—and Dinkelman Landscaping was incorporated.
The Dinkelmans continued doing lawn maintenance, flower and tree installations and a bit of lawn care for the next few years. They also branched into hardscaping and water features. Then, like most landscapers experience at some point in their evolution, the Dinkelmans’ big defining moment came in 2005.
“A friend of mine from a local pipeline company asked me if I’d ever thought about getting into right-of-way maintenance,” Terry Sr. recalls. “Since I’d worked for a pipeline company for several years, I had a pretty good feel for what their needs were. They were looking for another contractor, and that’s basically how it all started.”
It was a huge step to take, but fortunately Dinkelman Landscaping had a lot of the equipment it would need to take it. Much of the right-of-way work is handled with a Bobcat compact track loader, which was already in the company’s equipment fleet. Various Bobcat work tools are also utilized, including a brush mower, stump grinder, soil conditioner and grapple.
Several new investments did have to be made. “The first thing we needed was a bucket truck,” Terry Sr. points out. “We also had to buy a couple Kershaw tree trimmers, several brush chippers, and a heavy-duty Fecon brush mower. But a lot of the work is still handled with our compact track loaders, which are great because they can work on wet turf, which we often have to do.”
The right-of-way maintenance business is a very demanding one—for good reason. “It’s mandated by the government that these pipeline easements be either inspected by air or walked on a weekly basis,” Terry Sr. explains.