Thoughts of fall bring to mind beautiful foliage, cool days ... and thousands of leaf-filled plastic bags lining the streets of Medford.
Yep, it's that time of year again, when residents across the city haul the rakes out of their garages and pile bag upon bag on the nearby curb for free pickup.
The city's annual leaf collection program begins Monday, Nov. 6, and runs through Dec. 29.
The annual event is a bigger deal for some than others. Among those who brace themselves for the falling foliage are residents along east Medford's tree-lined Valley View Drive.
Erin Brender, whose Valley View lawn was thick with browning leaves Friday afternoon, hires help to maintain her property, but also delegates some of the raking and bagging to her 8- and 11-year-old sons.
"Without the lawn guy, I'd be overwhelmed for sure," she said.
She said it's worth dealing with fall leaves to have the elms that line her property.
"It's just livability," she said. "Like everything else in life, you put up with a little bit of trouble to have good things."
Not all residents take advantage of the program, even those dealing with ankle-deep leaf falls on Valley View.
Brender's neighbor a few houses to the north, Diane Marsh, said she hadn't participated for 10 years, since being required to bag the leaves. Instead, she said, she rakes the leaves to loosen them and then lets "the wind take them."
Although small enough to rake up easily, the leaves hold big potential for good if dealt with properly, for bad if not.
"Newer residents won’t remember," said city Public Works Director Cory Crebbin, "but people who have been around for awhile will remember when our streets used to flood all the time."
Leaves can contribute heavily to clogging storm sewers, which used to cost the city significant time and resources to clear. Two things have helped mitigate Medford's problems. The first is that since 2001, the city has contracted with Rogue Disposal & Recycling for the leaf pickup. The second is the changed methods for handling the leaves.
Until the mid-'90s, city residents could pile their leaves in the street for pickup. But a combination of winter rains and massive piles of leaves clogged storm drains and proved to be a flooding problem in more than one neighborhood, so the city began requiring the leaves to be bagged and placed at curbside.
Wendel Smith, general manager of Rogue Disposal & Recycling, said each year the company hauls an average of 1,000 tons of leaves, or 2 million pounds.
Smith said it's important that residents tie their bags securely to keep rainwater out and lessen the weight of each bag. There's a 40-pound limit for bags, and they can be no bigger than 33 gallons. There is no limit to the number of bags that can be put out.
Oh, and by the way, only leaves are supposed to be placed in the bags. Smith said employees can tell when other material is hidden in bags.
"If we see branches and things like that, they’ll get left," he said. This means no leftover Halloween pumpkins, either.
While Rogue Disposal holds the city's garbage franchise, the leaves aren't simply transported to a landfill to be dumped. The company de-bags the leaves at a transfer station and sends them off to a grinder to be used for compost. They decompose in a couple of stages for a year and a half and the company sells back the compost to residents to help grow new leaf-bearing plants, or in Smith's case, flowers.
— Reach reporter Kaylee Tornay at 541-776-4497 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ka_tornay.