Keep your leaves out of the streets

Robert Houk • Oct 14, 2019 at 8:14 AM

Despite the record-setting heat we felt at the start of October, autumn has definitely arrived. That means leaves will be falling and some homeowners will be raking them into the streets.

Unfortunately, that’s not where they should go.

That’s one of my pet peeves in the fall — leaves piled in the streets. No matter how many times city officials advise residents to keep them behind the curb, there are always some clever citizens who believe their leaves are better off in the streets.

Just last week, Johnson City reminded residents that fall leaf collection has begun. They asked folks “not to bag leaves and to have leaves piled behind the curb (not in front of the curb or on the street).”

Good luck with that.

You may ask: What’s the big deal about leaves in the street? They fall off the trees into the streets anyway.

Yes, they do, but they don’t naturally result in neatly stacked piles of 2 or 3 feet blocking the roadway.

There are sound reasons for not raking leaves into the street. One is the trouble caused by wet leaves. Even though we haven’t seen substantial rain since early spring, when leaves do get wet they create major headaches.

For one thing, leaves in the street have a tendency to clog storm water drains. And when those storm sewers are clogged, streets often flood.

Street flooding is already a serious problem, particularly as we get deeper into the fall when heavy downpours become more common.

Drains blocked by piled leaves, brush and black walnuts can’t do their jobs. It doesn’t take an engineer to figure that one out.

Wet leaves piled on streets can also create a safety problem for motorists, cyclists and even pedestrians who tread on them. They are as slippery as banana peels and offer no traction to wheels or heels.

There have been recent reports of motorcyclists who have had serious spills after hitting a patch of wet leaves or mud on the roadway.

Johnson City will be collecting leaves until Dec. 20, with crews expecting to conduct at least three pickups in each neighborhood during the period. The collection process itself is a neat to watch. It’s basically a truck with a giant vacuum cleaner hose that sucks the leaves up.

That’s why the piles of the leaves should be free of limbs and brush that could clog the suction process. There’s an entirely different truck for picking up brush, one that has a giant mechanical claw to snatch up limbs.

I have another pet peeve of the season — the noise and carbon pollution created by leaf blowers. They should be banned in the city.

It irritates me when I see so-called lawn care professionals using these obnoxious gas-powered contraptions to blow grass cuttings into the street (which is wrong) in the summer, and it makes me even angrier to hear a neighbor shatter the peace of an autumn afternoon by using one to blow their leaves to the curb.

Grab a rake, for goodness sake. They are quiet, environmentally friendly and make for good exercise.

And speaking of being environmentally friendly, there’s a good way of taking care of leaves and grass clippings that doesn’t require raking them to the curb. Many residents know it’s better to put them into compost piles for their gardens.

A compost pile should consist of both leaves and green material, such as kitchen scraps, grass clippings and green plants. An equal amount of brown and green material is necessary for proper decomposition.

Once you have added the materials, use a garden hose to lightly moisten the pile. It’s also key to turn the material over routinely.

If done correctly, the compost should be ready to use just in time for spring planting.

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