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April  17

Ok, Who Left That Stick in the Road?

You shouldn't sweep dirt under the rug. And starting next fall, it looks like you won't be able to sweep leaves into the street, either, at least in Montclair. According to the Ledger, there's a plan afoot to make Montclair residents bag their own leaves. Although Mayor Remsen is hedging his bets, town manager Joe Hartnett doesn't sound the least bit ambivalent. Apparently, he had a run-in with a stick last fall.

Curbside piles of leaves, he said, in effect narrow the streets, creating traffic hazards and exacerbating the shortage of parking; they create a fire hazard from motor vehicle catalytic converters; and the heavy equipment's diesel fuel pollutes the air.

Hartnett said he's even had a personal run-in with a pile of leaves while driving, with a hidden, protruding stick leaving a scratch down the entire length of his SUV. Bagging, too, he said, would also encourage hand-raking over noisy leaf blowers.

Well, Pat Kenschaft ought to like that. And her husband may like it even better, apparently she sends him out annually to schlep back bags of fall leaves for her organic garden.

Dig in compost or distribute it (partially rotted) around plants as a mulch. I use the three-pile method of composting: one pile I am adding to, one I'm taking from, and one that is "cooking." Compost heaps decrease to about one fifth their size in a year, and are then ready in this climate if you alternate "green" (nitrogen-rich: mostly kitchen and lawn waste) and "brown" (carbon-rich, mostly dried leaves) matter at roughly four inch layers. My husband brings home about 100 bags of leaves each fall, about a ton. For 20 years it has all disappeared into our suburban back yard!

Looks like next fall, he won't have to travel all the way to Glen Ridge for compost supplies.

April 17, 2005 in Scooped by Phil Read, Again | Permalink


two of my favorite things about living in New Jersey:

1) Cheap (relatively) FULL service Gas.

2) Leaf-Blowing the leaves into a nice pile in the street for pickup.

Posted by: Right of Center | Apr 17, 2005 11:02:14 AM

we have always bagged our leaves..i hate those piles on the street...dangerous and unsightly.

Posted by: S. | Apr 17, 2005 12:15:52 PM

We bag ours as well - it comes from years of living in other states that prefer bags. I couldn't believe the piles on our block the first year we moved here. I think it's incredibly ugly to look at and a pain to drive around various piles down the narrow block. YAY for bagging!

Posted by: Jaynee | Apr 17, 2005 1:21:23 PM

Under the new state stormwater regulations all towns will have to keep the leaves out of the gutters some way or the other.

Posted by: The Prop | Apr 17, 2005 3:50:02 PM

The Prop beat me to the comment. This was a very hot topic at the League of Municipalities meeting in November, and last week's NJ Conference of Mayors. The new regulations require (among other things) that if you put leaves in the street, the leaves must be picked-up within 7 days. Since that is pretty much financially impossible for most towns, the net result is that many, if not all, towns in NJ will be switching to bagging, like we already do in GR.

The new stormwater regs are going to be hitting all three municipalities in a number of other ways as well. While I am generally supportive of the objectives of these new regulations, it is another fine example of the state mandating things, and then expecting the local property taxpayer to pick up the tab (there is some grant money available to help out with some of the initial costs, and we have applied for it, but there is no guarantee we'll be getting it, and no matter what, the local taxpayers will get hit with the new recurring costs).

Posted by: Carl Bergmanson | Apr 17, 2005 4:38:21 PM

I remember about two or three years ago ... late fall... we got tons of rain and the huge piles of leaves began to get moldy and smell bad.

To make matters worse, the trees seemed to have more leaves than in other years, and the city of Montclair got WAY behind on the pickups and the piles were there for weeks...

It's a pain sure, but what is the BIG deal about having to bag your own leaves?

Posted by: Pam | Apr 17, 2005 5:26:21 PM


you should see my yard and the zillions of trees. If I had to bag it would take about 100 bags! Tons of work.

Posted by: Right of Center | Apr 17, 2005 5:57:41 PM

I never understood the social culture of shoving leaves and snow into the public streets: it creates unsafe driving conditions at the convenience of property owners. Driving along Highland Ave in Oct-Nov is a real slalom course, and then having to avoid oncoming cars. There should be a law...

Posted by: Roads Are For Driving | Apr 17, 2005 6:22:33 PM

(you should see my yard and the zillions of trees. If I had to bag it would take about 100 bags! Tons of work.)

uhh..yeah but you bought the house knowing the trees were there, no?

Posted by: Pam | Apr 17, 2005 6:29:59 PM

But "Right of center" also bought the house knowing that there was curbside pickup. I hate to think how many bags I would have to set out brocking the street.

Posted by: Allen Joslyn | Apr 17, 2005 6:34:57 PM

[you should see my yard and the zillions of trees. If I had to bag it would take about 100 bags! Tons of work.]

Is it our problem that you chose to have a big property? The city must pick up your leaves because it's "tons of work?"

Should the citizenry have unsafe road conditions so you can avoid raking leaves?

You can easily hire a landscaper or even teenager to come bag the leaves for you...it's your free market and you'll pay what the market demands.

You bought the house knowing the trees were there, right?

Posted by: butchcjg | Apr 17, 2005 6:37:50 PM

(But "Right of center" also bought the house knowing that there was curbside pickup. I hate to think how many bags I would have to set out brocking the street.)

Maybe he should chop all the trees down then...

Posted by: Pam | Apr 17, 2005 6:50:03 PM

or move to a smaller property...:-)

Posted by: S. | Apr 17, 2005 6:53:57 PM

Let me know when you all have my situation, finances, yard services and procedures all worked out.

I eagerly await the result!

Posted by: Right of Center | Apr 17, 2005 7:09:48 PM

p.s. I'll bet it will cost the town more to puck up bags.

Posted by: Right of Center | Apr 17, 2005 7:15:57 PM

Pucking up bags might cost more, who knows. I dont know what the price of pucking is...

Posted by: butchcjg | Apr 17, 2005 8:39:13 PM

Puck up, it can only get worse....

Posted by: PAZ | Apr 17, 2005 9:09:27 PM

Anyone who supports compulsory bagging is unmontclairian. First of all, those high-quality garden bags are expensive; secondly, it takes a great deal of time to put them in bags, even once the leaf pile is established.

Posted by: Marshall | Apr 18, 2005 4:53:19 AM

Fnally! Someone else who, obviously, has done the yard work themselves!.

Posted by: Right of Center | Apr 18, 2005 8:00:25 AM

We do our own yard work too, ROC..but we have always bagged our leaves.

BTW, you do have a certain charm sometimes.

Posted by: S. | Apr 18, 2005 8:12:15 AM

The irony of bagging leaves always gets to me. We cut down the trees to make paper bags so that we can throw away the leaves that fall from the trees.

Before grass lawns came along those falling leaves that stayed where they fell enriched the soil and the trees. Now we pay for fertilizer to do the same thing. Seems like a waste.

Even if you don’t want to deal with a full-scale compost pile as mentioned in the article, if you have an extra bit of space you may want to consider making a simple leaf mulch pile.

I have a decent number of trees and I rake all my fall leaves into a space about 4’x 6’. In the spring I simply dig uo and mix the pile a few times. By the time the next leaves fall I have a good amount of rich black soil I can distribute around my yard. The pile doesn’t smell and I get to keep the free nutrients that fall from the sky.

There also may be some room for compromise on the collection issue. People could rake leaves into the street on a schedule similar to garbage or recycling, but only for a short period during the fall. Each section of town would be given a specific day (or week?) that the leaves would be picked up in that area. Residents of that area would be allowed a given time before that to rake leaves into the street (maybe only the west side or north side for example to cut down on traffic and parking issues). At all other times of year bagging would be mandatory and strictly enforced (public flogging maybe?).

It may seem complicated but if we can do it for other refuse, why not leaves?

Can someone tell me now what happens to those bags and leaves once they get picked up from the curb? Are they just dumped or are they composted?

Posted by: State Street Pete | Apr 18, 2005 11:38:37 AM

Great post, State Street Pete.

Posted by: Chris | Apr 18, 2005 12:52:29 PM

Unmontclairian. Hmmm....
Dumping your garbage in the street is Montclairian!
Good to know.

Posted by: GRme | Apr 18, 2005 8:56:12 PM

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