Leaving Leaves To Their Fate Or Raking Them

Something happens to leaves when they fall off the tree. A leaf in many ways is like a piece of hair. When it’s in the tree, it is admired and awed over for its bright hues. But once it falls from its branch, like a piece of hair off of someone’s head, it is regarded as unpleasant, something that needs to be swept away quickly and placed in the garbage.

In the past, it was nothing. Leaves would fall as they always did and people would just rake them to the curb, where they were picked up. But the late autumn breeze would whirl through town and blow the leaves all over. Then, the town required residents to bag their leaves in plastic bags, banning them last year in favor of paper bags—which are, incidentally, made from trees.

And the people complied.

But with all these restrictions and requirements, what will deter people from just raking the leaves into plastic bags or onto tarps and just dumping leaves in empty lots on a pitch dark, moonless night?

After all, you cannot burn them and, now, you cannot just rake them to the street. The town is hoping residents drive to transfer stations and dump these leaves in the compactor, even if the station is 15 to 35 minutes away, as opposed to depositing them in some nearby patch of woods, where there are leaves naturally littering the ground.

All for those horrible leaves.

If you live in Southampton Town then once again it will be your civic duty to pick up and paper-bag all those fallen autumn leaves.

The town’s newest leaves program, which was implemented last fall, remains in place. The program requires town residents to rake, gather, and place all leaves in paper bags—not plastic, they’ve been banned—if they wish for the town’s highway department crews to carry them away. Only senior citizens over the age of 73, residents with approved handicaps or special needs, or those with medical conditions that proscribe extensive physical work, will be allowed to place loose leaves at their curbside for pickup.

If residents cannot afford to purchase paper bags, which run about $3 a bundle, they can acquire bags free of charge at the Town Highway Department headquarters.

The town’s first round of pickups is scheduled for the week of November 19, and they ask residents not to place bags at the curb before November 1.

“We usually start around Thanksgiving time when everything falls,” said Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor. “But much of it depends on the weather.”

However, residents can dump their leaves for free.

Last year, the town offered residents free vouchers that enable those ambitious folks who could not stand the gathering leaves to haul up to eight cubic yards of leaves in paper bags to transfer stations or other designated town locations that have leaf compactors.

Any resident can bring leaves for free to these locations once he or she has attained one of these vouchers from the highway department. (Residents can also attain vouchers for their hired landscapers at the highway department to deposit their leaves at these facilities without charge.)

The town continues to search for new ways to save money. Two years ago the town spent roughly $1.2 million picking up leaves. The objective this year—like last year—is to spend less money. The town hopes to keep its leaf budget to a moderate $700,000 by having fewer trucks and employees handling the pickup, and encouraging residents to take advantage of those vouchers.

The town highway department cannot deposit leaves for free at facilities because of town policy against internal charge-backs. However, Gregor says that the majority of the collected leaves are brought to farmers or nurseries that request the leaves to enrich their compost.

Finally, someone who wants the leaves.

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