One of the problems that many residents of Eugene find themselves encountering during this time of year, just like many other Norhwesterners, is that of having an excess amount of leaves surrounding their homes, apartment complexes, and businesses.

While it does speak to the beauty and environmental abundance of the Northwest, leaf piles all around the city of Eugene can create their fair share of problems. Ranging from blocking bike lanes to flooded streets because of clogged drains, there are quite a few ways that just one extra bundle of leaves can result in more than a few headaches.

Recognizing the importance of eradicating the piling up of leaves in neighborhoods and throughout the city, the City of Eugene coordinated efforts in the late-1960s to develop a government program that would help residents in the disposal of their excess material.

The result of their coordination was the City of Eugene’s Leaf Collection and Delivery program.

Eric Jones, Public Affairs Manager in the Eugene Public Works department of the City of Eugene, talked about the history and current program in place.

“Eugene’s leaf program has provided service to local residents since the late 1960s,” explained Jones. “It offers residents a variety of options for dealing with fall leaf accumulations.”

The program itself is segmented into different categories that are based on zones (of which there are four) and rounds (of which there are two).

The four zones within the boundary of the leaf pickup program are West/Central Eugene, North Eugene, Southeast Eugene, and Southwest Eugene. Every region has allotted times for when leaves will be picked up, with the timing spaced out enough where City employees have enough time to collect all debris.

And, while most leaves do fall and get picked up within the first round of pickups (lasting from November 13 – December 28), a second round of collection is made for all areas from December 27 – January 28.

The responsibility for determining the particular pickup schedule is also driven by the City.

The zoning map that is used to schedule pickup and delivery times. Photo courtesy of the City of Eugene.

“Staff from the Public Works Maintenance Division’s surface operations section,” explaiend Jones as to who oversees this operation. ” (This) includes stormwater surface operations (and) determining the annual leaf collection and delivery schedule.”

Through the coordination of this program the Public Works Maintenance Division seeks to provide the residents of Eugene with several benefits.

The program offers two key benefits,” mentioned Jones. “Collecting leaves from the streets helps prevent street flooding caused by clogged gutters and catch basins, and keeping leaves out of the waterways improves water quality because decomposing leaves use up oxygen that is needed by aquatic life in local streams and rivers.”

A benefit that many residents are seeing is that the pickup program offers them an alternative to getting out in their yards, purchasing bags for the leaves to be collected in, and accommodating the disposal of the leaves themselves.

“I think it’s needed because they have to do it because the catch basins get filled up and that causes flooding in the neighborhoods,” explained Bill Kasper, New Zone Art Gallery contributor and Kasper Art Studio owner as well as Purchasing Manager of Campus Operations at the University of Oregon. “I think they do a pretty good job of letting people know when the pickups will occur. In Eugene it’s a leaf problem, not a snow problem. It saves the taxpayer a lot of money and effort because there are times when your neighbors could blow leaves into your yard and you’d have to rake them up and dispose of them, but since the City collects everybody’s, it saves everybody a lot of time and work.”

This is not to say, however, that the program has not run into any problems. One problem that the City of Eugene used to face but has now mitigated was that of leaves being in the way of those who choose to commute on their bicycles. And with Eugene being one of the cities most trafficked by bicyclists, the City made sure to address the problem.

Wet leaves, the enemies of bicyclists everywhere.

“In the past, there was some concern about leaves being placed in bike lanes,” explained Jones about problems the department has encountered. “Over the past several years the Public Works Department has worked hard to address this concern, by emphasizing through community outreach that leaves should not be placed in bike lanes, by providing enhanced reporting tools so cyclists can report problems such as leaves in bike lane, and by deploying increased staff and equipment to keeping priority bike lanes clear during leaf season.”

In fact, the Leaf Collection and Delivery Program has dedicated a special request form for bikers to use when they want to report a particular lane/lanes being riddled with leaves.

Other problems the program finds itself addressing are trying to figure out a way to satisfy all citizens at the same time with their requests, times at which one area may be plagued by more leaf fall than others, and trying to make people adhere to when they should place leaves in the street.

Heading forward with the program and continuing its success while addressing some of its problems is something the City of Eugene will be responsible for in the near future. One method the City is using to help their residents with a more efficient and productive pickup program is by providing details on how valuable mulch made from decomposed leaves and debris can be.

“…none of the leaves collected by the City go to the landfill,” said Jones. “..there is growing awareness of the value of leaves as mulch and compost material. Of the leaves collected by the City of Eugene last year, 45% (almost 8,000 cubic yards) were delivered to private properties, and another 40% (about 7,100 cubic yards) were delivered to community gardens and parks.”

In order to promote the composting of leaves the Leaf Collection and Delivery Program’s website has a fact sheet where you can learn more about compost as well as request to be delivered leaves that the city picks up.