updated 10/8/2004 6:13:39 PM ET 2004-10-08T22:13:39

It was a clear-cut error: A state worker mowed down 28,000 young trees that had been planted as part of a $33,000 highway beautification project.

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The only things left behind were signs that read “Do not mow or spray.”

“Shame on us. We wasted all that effort,” Joe Rutherford, a spokesman with the Ohio Transportation Department, said Friday.

The oaks, ashes, birches, maples and sycamores were planted in 2002 and 2003 at the interchange of Interstate 75 and I-475 near this Toledo suburb. The city, county and state paid for the seedlings, and volunteers put in more than 700 hours planting them.

Rutherford said the seedlings, which were no more than 2 feet tall, were cut down earlier this week. He said that many of the seedlings were dead and that someone got the idea that it would be OK to mow them down.

“I’m sure at some point someone was directed to mow. I’m not sure at what level that was given,” he said. “We’re reviewing the matter.”

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