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Our Gem: When leaves fall, the city gets busy

| October 31, 2021 1:00 AM

Fall is such a beautiful time of year in Coeur d’Alene with all the deciduous trees changing vibrant colors as their leaves slowly cover our sidewalks and lawns. Fall is also the time of year for Coeur d’Alene’s Annual Leaf Fest, which begins Monday, Nov. 8, allowing residents to rake leaves out into the street for pickup. We will soon be witnessing the organized chaos of front-end loaders piling up leaves in intersections to be carried off by dump trucks. The leaves that are collected are shredded and composted, creating topsoil to supplement where clean fill has been removed.

Leaf Fest is not only a great service that few cities offer, but it also helps the environment. Many storm drains in Coeur d’Alene drain directly to the Spokane River or Coeur d’Alene Lake, Our Gem. Leaves and other organic debris contain high levels of nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, which can impair water quality. As you may be aware, there is a recent focus on reducing phosphorus loading into Coeur d’Alene Lake. Excess phosphorus can cause increased algae and aquatic plant growth which can lead to the depletion of dissolved oxygen potentially causing the release of mining-related hazardous metals from lakebed sediments (see Heavy Metals in Our Watershed at www.uidaho.edu/ourgem).

Timing for Leaf Fest is tricky. Ideally, it is best to take advantage of the frost, rain and winds that we get in late October allowing for the maximum number of leaves to fall onto the ground. Starting Leaf Fest later could be hampered by snowfall, wherein the leaves would end up being plowed into snowbanks until spring.

After Nov. 1, leaves may be placed in the street at least one foot from the curb to allow for stormwater drainage. Please do not place leaves into the street before November 1 for several reasons: rain can wash them into stormdrains, cars driving over them break the leaves down making it harder to capture with large equipment, and it can make driving and parking more challenging. Please also do not include branches, bagged leaves, fallen fruit, debris, or trash.

Leaf Fest will run from Nov. 8 to Dec. 3, 2021, starting at the south end of town and moving north. Crews will push leaves into large piles to pick up and then come by with street sweepers to clean up any remaining leaves. You can track progress at www.maps.cdaid.org/leaf. Once they have passed through your neighborhood, they will not be coming back so be sure not to miss your opportunity!

Here are some tips for Coeur d’Alene residents to participate:

• Do not place leaves into the street until after Nov. 1.

• Please move your vehicles, trailers, basketball hoops, etc. off the street.

• Keep leaves one foot from the curb to allow for stormwater flow.

• Once your neighborhood has been cleaned, please do not put any more leaves out in the streets. They won’t be coming back.

• Watch out for the cities crew and equipment. Give them room so they can get their job done quickly and effectively.

Working together we can all make a difference. Go Leaf Fest!

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The Our Gem Coeur d’Alene Lake Collaborative is a team of committed and passionate professionals working to preserve lake health and protect water quality by promoting community awareness of local water resources through education, outreach and stewardship. Our Gem includes local experts from the University of Idaho Community Water Resource Center, Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Coeur d’Alene Regional Chamber of Commerce, and CDA 2030.

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