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LANDERS: Keep your leaves off the street

LANDERS: Keep your leaves off the street


Fall is a great time of year, especially in Wisconsin. The cooler weather brings out bonfires, hoodies, pumpkin spice, and honking geese overhead. Fall is also the time of year that our weekends are spent cheering for our favorite football teams, climbing a deer stand, or throwing musky baits at a weed bed. For all that is great about this time of year, there is one pet peeve I do have about fall. The annual display of people raking their leaves into the street.

Every year as the leaves fall, our streets become a dumping ground to the copious amounts of leaves from our beautiful oaks, maples, elm, and birch trees. Some will try to do this with dignity as they try to pile the leaves in a nice neat pile in the street gutter. I liken this to someone folding up their McDonalds wrappers before tossing them out their car window.

Others will take the sloppy approach and just rake or dump their leaves into the street in any haphazard way. I find these people curious as they take the time to make their lawn look nice but trash the street in front of their house to do so. Some leaf piles are so high that you would need to hire a Sherpa to reach the summit of them. Others get spread along the entire property lines on streets like the Great Wall of China.

Regardless of how they are placed in our streets, it is technically illegal, messy, and makes for our city’s street sweepers and rain drainage infrastructure to become clogged. Therefore, being the upstanding city resident I am, I suggest some alternatives to those who find the need to rake their leaves into the street.

My first suggestion may come as a surprise when I offer the suggestion to actually bag your leaves for the annual city fall pick-up in October.

To do so, you will need a rake, lawn bags, and some effort. Nobody really likes bagging leaves, so this isn’t high on my list as a recommended practice.

If you are going to go through the effort to shove anything into a trash bag, it should be things of more significance like large stashes of cash, body parts, or items of Packer clothing.

A simple alternative to raking leaves is mulching them. Our tree city advisory board will love to hear this recommendation as mulch provides much needed nutrients to our trees, shrubs, and lawn. Mulching is also fun too, especially if you have a riding mower. If you don’t have a mulching mower, you can still mulch the leaves by duct taping your blender to your rake. It may take a bit longer, but still does the same job in the end.

Another option is to rake the leaves into a large pile and burn them. Our city restricts burning to certain days and times, so be sure to check our city laws to make sure you are OK to burn. Contrary to popular belief, leaves do not burn well. That is why it is important you infuse your leaf pile with certain things to make sure of a good, hearty fire. Used tires, a basement couch, and a 1978 Pinto are all good things to add to your fire to seek a complete burn. Plus, the burning tire aroma keeps the mosquitos away!

Of course, the easiest way to rid your lawn of leaves is to use a leaf blower. The leaf blower really doesn’t get rid of the leaves, it just gives them a ride to your neighbor’s property. Leaf blowers could be the greatest invention ever, along with the Shake Weight and George Foreman grill. A quality leaf blower not only blows your leaves onto your neighbor’s lawn, but also your trash, dog poop, kids, and whatever part of that ‘78 Pinto that didn’t burn. It’s a problem solver like no other.

Leaves can also be composted, but let’s face it, composting is nothing more than a myth. We all tried composting at some time in our lives. We add lawn clippings, egg shells, coffee grounds, and such to a composter, turn it on once a month, and five years later you have a lawn clipping, egg shell, coffee ground salad with a bunch of bugs in it. Who has time to wait for composting to work? By the time compost is supposedly ready for our garden, we are most likely dead and our grandkids are left looking at a lawn clipping, egg shell, and coffee ground salad and wondering what the hell were we thinking?

You could also just leave your leaves on the lawn but that might leave your neighbors believing you left your leaves to alleviate your neighborly obligation in hopes you get relief when they finally leave altogether. Of course, your neighbor could also leave their leaves on their lawn in hope you leave too. Which is a reminder of why so many people find it attractive to live outside the city limits and away from other people.

Still, putting your leaves in the street is not the right thing to do. Take it easy on our city workers, equipment, and infrastructure. Discarding yard waste in the street is another form of littering as it blows all over and makes a mess of the whole neighborhood. If we wanted to make a mess of our streets this fall, we could just bring back WoZhaWa.

Brian Landers is a former Wisconsin Dells mayor. He writes a weekly column for the Dells Events. Reach him at

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