Around the end of 1996 I moved into Highlands Ranch, Colorado, dubbed "Beautiful Highlands Ranch." It was once rolling prairie. The last 30 years have seen the area transformed into a booming suburban housing development which, though unincorporated, supports almost 30 schools, a large post office, great parks and recreation centers, and more.
The whole population of nearly 100,000 people who abide in the ranch are required to submit to a community covenant. Committees patrol the cul de sacs (culs de sac?) to tell residents when they need to paint their houses (approximately every three years) and approve the color schemes. Any changes in landscaping must be approved by the community association; permanent clothes lines and anything else the neighbors might consider unsightly are strictly forbidden. Before the end of next month notices will be sent to any who fail to put away their Christmas decorations for the year, not supposed to be up more than 30 days after a holiday.
It's been 10 weeks since I arrived in Eugene, Oregon. Even with winter coming on, the place seemed so much more alive. There are trees everywhere! But it was autumn, and the leaves were beginning to fall. What do people do with all the leaves? (Compost, maybe?)
To my surprise, the kind of people who in Colorado would have owned snow blowers here have leaf blowers. I don't know, maybe they are the same thing with a different name. (Can you tell I'm more the rake and shovel type?) At any rate, they just blow the leaves from their yards, driveways, and sidewalks and leave them the streets.
Some of the piles of leaves are enormous and have been here longer than I have. Several times I've had a hard time finding a place to park amid the leaf piles.
Such a thing would have been a serious and fine-worthy offense in Beautiful (though largely treeless) Highlands Ranch.
I was discussing the leaf piles with the recent California transplants who own the house where I'm living. They were mystified by this practice as well. Why don't people bag up the leaves? Isn't it the homeowners' responsibility? Isn't there some kind of yard waste pickup along with trash and recycling? Or is it really considered OK to simply leave them in the street?
"They will come," Chris assured me. He was born and raised here. "The city picks up all the leaves."
"When will they come?"
"They've already started. They'll get there when they get there."
Yesterday, a dump truck and bulldozer came down my street, and, working in tandem, picked up all the leaf piles.
(File this under "It's not wrong, it's just different.")