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The Weeders Digest - Articles > More Info on why Fall is the season to do lake maint.

Love them, don't leaf them

Love them, don't leaf them
Help lakes by keeping fall foliage out of gutters




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This time of year, Madison lakes have a message for trees: "Don't Leaf Me!"

Leaves and grass clippings, while as natural as nature can get, unfortunately contribute to the "green" problem in Madison's big lakes by floating down storm sewers and decomposing in the water, adding tons of nutrients to the murky soup that is already scumming up the waters.

Local environmental groups are urging homeowners to give some leaf relief to the lakes this fall in the second annual "Love Your Lakes, Don't Leaf Them" campaign.

Sixteen billboards went up this week around Madison, urging residents to keep leaves and clippings out of the gutter so they don't wash into sewers and eventually into streams and lakes.

"Many people don't understand how leaves contribute to the pollution of our lakes," said Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. "I'm happy to see this effort to help raise awareness that whatever is in the street ends up in our lakes and streams, including leaves."

Yard signs and brochures promoting the leafless lakes are also being distributed throughout the city and county.

"Our mantra is, 'In Dane, only the rain goes down the drain,' " said Marcia Hartwig, storm water education coordinator for the Madison Area Municipal Storm Water Partnership. "We encourage folks to keep leaves and grass clippings out of lakes and streams by keeping them out of the street gutters and ditches."

The campaign is a joint effort of the Friends of Lake Wingra, Friends of Monona Bay, Friends of Starkweather Creek, Madison Advertising Federation, city of Madison and the Storm Water Partnership.

Not all leaves can be kept out of the lakes, but the campaign has some suggestions to keep as many leaves out of the flow as possible:

• Compost leaves for a nutrient-rich fertilizer for your gardens, or till them directly into the garden.

• Chop leaves into small particles with a lawnmower so they decompose directly into the lawn.

• Rake leaves into piles at the edge of the street but not into the street or ditch. Sweep or rake leaves out of the street, gutter or ditch so they don't wash down into the storm drain. When piled on the terrace (that area between the curb and sidewalk), leaves should be wet down so they don't blow around, or cover the pile with a tarp, or bag them into lawn cleanup bags.

"Improving leaf management to keep leaves from yards out of the street is a small but simple action that residents can take to help improve the health of Starkweather Creek, Lake Monona and all the other lakes and streams in Madison," said Laura Hewitt, Friends of Starkweather Creek member.

Friends of Monona Bay will hand out free compostable leaf bags on Oct. 15 and 29 from 9 a.m. to noon at Cargo Coffee, 1309 S. Park St.

E-mail: bnovak@madison.com

Bill Novak

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