That pesky ordinance

The summer of 2012 was so hot and dry that few of us had to do any lawn mowing. By the time we got a few sprinkles late in the fall, the mowers were winterized and put away until the 2013 season.

As a result, I never got to remind you of the city ordinance that says “thou shall not blow your grass clippings into the gutter or street.” Should the local police drive by when you are doing so and ticket you, there is a healthy fine of $100 plus court costs for the offense. It is my understanding that usually our police officers will offer a word of warning for a first offense. However, there is no rule that says they must do so.

If you have children who are mowing for others this summer, you might warn them to turn the mower so the grass clippings from the rows closest to the street blow back on the lawn instead of into the gutter. A $100 fine and court costs are a hefty chunk of change for a kid trying to earn a little spending money. Actually, it is a hefty chunk of change for any of us. And just so that you don’t think this is some arbitrary rule that a group of city council members dredged up a few years ago, you should know that there is a real purpose to the ordinance and it has been on the books for some time.

All the “stuff” in the gutters eventually finds its way into the system of storm drains that carry rainwater away from the residential and business areas. After a few gully washers in the spring or early summer most of the weeds, leaves, grass, and mud that has been sitting in the gutters all winter washes into the drainage system and guess what happens? Yup, the gunk overwhelms the capacity of the drains and things start backing up.

Adding grass clippings from your lawn is not helpful. If everyone in town shoots the clippings into the gutter all summer long, more drain clogging icky stuff will be fermenting in the storm drains. It will create one more problem for that ancient infrastructure on which we all depend. Clearing the debris will take more of your tax dollars.

The solution is to do it right. It takes little effort to turn your mower in the opposite direction for a couple of rows and keep the grass clippings out of the gutter and street, and ultimately, the storm drains.

I first wrote about this problem shortly after I went to work for the paper. Fewer residents violate the ordinance anymore so I assume more of them are knowledgeable about the issue. I thought I was quite clever in that first opinion column about grass clippings when I penned this, “Spring is sprung, the grass is riz, do you know what the ordinance is?” And now you do!

— SUSAN MARSHALL

 

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