Buried in leaves

Is there a better way to deal with the annual fall?

A few nights ago, I was bicycling home and ran smack-dab into a pile of leaves in the street. I have a good light on my bike, but leaves don’t show up well at night. I didn’t fall, but I did some scary wobbling before coming out the other side of the pile.

Geez, almost killed by a bunch of leaves, I thought.

That got me questioning the way the city of Chico deals with leaves. I’d noticed that, this time of year, leaf piles pretty much take over the streets. It’s as if the city drops other priorities—unimpeded bike lanes, keeping parking spaces open—so crews can pick up the leaves.

But why? The city doesn’t pick up our garbage, after all. We pay for that. Many of us also pay for a greenwaste container for our leaves and other yard waste.

And why does the city provide free pickup service for landscapers, who are in the business of removing leaves? The city already gives them a fee waiver at its composting facility near the airport, but it also allows them to deposit their leaves at selected sites in town—those who aren’t just blowing them into the street.

In other words, a landscaper blows the leaves into a pile, loads them into a truck, then dumps them a few blocks away. The city then comes by with a truck and front-loader—two vehicles, two drivers—to pick them up. Then it takes them the two or three miles to the compost facility.

If this is efficiency, I’m Kris Kringle.

I asked Kirby White, the city’s public works manager, what the rationale was for the leaf-pickup program. He said its original intention was to keep storm-drain systems open, and that it was designed primarily to service city-owned trees bordering the roadways.

Obviously, it’s gone well beyond that.

I lived in Boise for a couple of years. It too has a lot of trees. There, the city subsidizes the purchase of super-large paper bags (at the time, five for two bucks, as I remember) into which residents put their leaves. On designated days, they leave them curbside (though not in the street), and a city crew comes by and tosses them into a truck—no front-loader needed—and takes them to be composted.

At first I thought, wow, this bag thing is complicated; Chico is way ahead of Boise when it comes to leaves. Now I’m not so sure.

Is Biggs booming? Back in February I wrote about Frith’s Thanks a Latté, the little café in Biggs that had become the social hub of the community but had been put up for sale by its owners. I’m happy to report that it’s been sold and the new owners intend not only to keep it open, but also to add a dinner menu.

Teri Garcia, the Gridley Century 21 agent who handled the sale, also told me she’d recently handled the sale of the town’s long-shuttered hotel, the Colonial Inn, across the street at Sixth and B streets. Its new owners want to refurbish and reopen the hotel, she said, as well as add shops and a café.

Go Biggs!