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From Where I stand: Leaf blowers: nuisance or necessity?

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Posted on: January 12, 2022

By Nan Roche

Nan Roche has lived in College Park since 1983 and is a retired scientist, an artist and poet.

This time of year is beautiful, as we enjoy the change of seasons, but a week ago, as I was recovering from surgery and trying to rest, I became aware of the droning background machine noise of leaf blowers. I tried to put it out of my mind, but the more I tried, the louder the sound seemed to become. I thought that it would probably be short-lived, but it went on and on for well over an hour, non-stop, and just as it stopped, there were other blowers that started up. The din of high-pitched machine whining was deafening. You’ve all heard it. Most of the time it drops into the background while we are busy, but if you stop what you’re doing,  you’ll hear that din. We’re habituated to so many noises — the planes, freight trains, cars and sirens that are the legacy of living in the city — but leaf blowers are the worst. Their noise is high-pitched and, even if intermittent, impossible to ignore.  

Granted, we only hear leaf blowers about 6 weeks of the year, but must we put up with it? There is a device called a rake. It was patented in 1874, by Edmund Brown. Rakes allow you to clear leaves selectively, leaving the rest to decompose in place. Leaf litter is important mulch in our oak-forested area; it adds nutrients back to the soil. You need only remove leaves from your grassy areas, perhaps around your annuals — leaf blowers strip away everything. 

Raking is inexpensive. A good rake that is ergonomic is easy to use, and there are health benefits to getting a little exercise. Plus, who doesn’t love the smell of fall leaves? For those of us who aren’t able to rake, think about touching base with neighborhood youngsters or hire a lawn service.

Many local jurisdictions are banning blowers altogether. I would propose a limited- use plan first. Mondays between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., for example — but NOT on those weekends — let’s leave them sacrosanct.

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