Sunday, December 20, 2015

Some Local Parks "Leave the Leaves"

According to a report by councilman Patrick Simon at the December Princeton Environmental Commission meeting, the town recreation department (Princeton has no parks department) is changing its management to "leave the leaves" in 8 of 15 parks in town. That means that leaves will be mulch-mowed back into the turf on non-sports fields, and left in back areas under trees. This represents an important step away from the notion that leaves are litter that must be exported from town, and a step towards acknowledging the important ecological role leaves have in the landscape, for nutrient recycling and as habitat that benefits birds and insects like fireflies.

After mulch mowing (most any mower blade will cut leaves into bits as it cuts the grass, and therefore "mulch mow"), the park looks like this.

The decision follows a number of emails I sent to director of recreation, Ben Stentz, requesting that the maintenance crews shift away from the noisy and labor- and fuel-intensive practice of blowing leaves into piles and then hauling them out of town to the composting site.

Because of this new approach, neighbors will no longer need to listen to a morning's worth of leaf blowing each year, rec staff will have more time for other work, and there will be less burning of carbon-based fuels to export nutrients from town parks. This is what they call a win-win-win-win.

The photo shows how the mowed bits of leaves nestle inbetween the leaf blades, and will begin to behave as slow-release fertilizer for the lawn.

In my emails to staff and council members, I had also requested permission to build and fill leaf corrals in a couple local parks, to demonstrate to park users this sustainable and easy approach that, like mulch mowing, helps homeowners "leave the leaves" on their property.

That proposal was not approved, so I'm using my front yard on North Harrison Street to demonstrate the benefits of leaf corrals. As the three leaf corrals of various sizes in the front yard show, they can be proudly displayed out in the open, integrated into perennial borders, or hidden behind shrubs. As the post at this link shows, leaf corrals can be used either to generate high quality compost for the homeowner, or to simply channel nutrients back into the yard.

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