Cascading Waters can be found at 135 Olean Street on the eastern edge of Worcester's northwest parklands, the Cascades. The Cascades are 350 acres of park and conservation lands along the borders of Worcester, Paxton, and Holden, Massachusetts. Home to countless species of plants and animals, the Cascades are open to passive recreation year-round.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Records & Yard Waste

Today set a temperature record.
Yesterday did too.
Tomorrow has a chance to do so as well.

For today it was 78 degrees F up at the Worcester Airport.
The prior record set in 1894 was 71 degrees.
In the old order when we used words like "usually," we might have said that the temperature would "usually" be 44 degrees F. Last year was a little warmer than the "usual" as it was 47 degrees F.

Tomorrow's record is 77 degrees F.
The prediction is for 76 degrees F.
You never know... anything is possible.

Yesterday was another temperature record.
74 degrees F up at the Worcester Airport.
The prior record since 1892 was back in 1999 at 65 degrees.

Crazy days.


With all of the warm weather folks are out gardening.
Some folks have grown tired of the Christmas tree in the backyard and are looking to get rid of it.
Some have new bags of leaves and clippings.

Please, please, please resist the temptation to illegally dump your yard waste in the park, or conservation area.

There are a couple of problems with this, some you might have thought of, and some you might not have.

On the more obvious side:

  • It looks really ugly (imagine selling a post card of the White Mountains, or the beach, with mounds of yard waste);
  • While things may eventually compost over a few years in a managed compost operation, dumping in the woods takes much much longer as it is not tended to, not to say that looking at mounds of yard waste for even a couple of years is not at all wonderful;
  • It is considered dumping, and thus is an illicit act;

On the things you might not have thought of:

  • Illicit behavior encourages others to do the same. This gets overwhelming and out of hand very quickly! Especially in a city. Imagine one Christmas tree turning into 5, OR 1 day's labor of grass clippings and leaves each month for the spring, summer, and fall being multiplied by you and your 3-4 neighbors! or more! It gets pretty crazy pretty fast!
  • The stuff in your yard honestly has no place in the woods. Folks grow exotic flowers, bushes, and trees in their yard because they look pretty. Heck, even the grass folks grow really doesn't honestly belong here. More of the seeds and cuttings from those items survive and make a new home in the woods. They choke out the stuff that belongs in the woods and destroy the homes, food, and camouflage needed by all sorts of birds, beasts, and slithering things. Patches Conservation area is turning into one giant stand of Japanese knotweed;
  • The sheer volume of yard waste poured into brooks, wetlands, ponds, and lakes fills them in and reduces the water quality. Why might you care? Well, this is a bummer for folks who fish, or like to see fish, or to imagine fish might be able to live here. It reduces the presence of wildlife. Since Worcester closed its neighborhood pools all of the yard waste dumping right here along the Tatnuck Brook messes up water quality of the swimming area at Coes Reservoir for everyone.

But more than all of that, The world now requires each of us to know where we get our stuff and to know where it ends up.
Making our yard look pretty by making somewhere else look ugly is an act that is selectively blind to everyone and everything around us.

But we are Lucky!
Our trash is incinerated to create electricity. What remains, much smaller by volume is recycled or landfilled.
Our recyclables are picked up from our curb for free, and we don't even need to sort them any more!
Our yard waste is received for free and magically transformed into something good.

The old world notion of "out of sight, out of mind" is dead.
We own the responsibility for what we use and what we discard.
Even our leaves and yard waste.

We are blessed with a very progressive City that twice a year comes and clears the streets of leaves and small branches for free, and then, miracle of miracles, composts it, and then much like a dream, offers the compost back to its citizens FOR FREE!

Three areas of the City have public days designated for yard waste drop off FOR FREE, and again, these things all become free compost!

If those times do not work out for you there is a central City drop off for yard waste where you can make an appointment to bring your stuff.

Don't like that for convenience? The City frequently sells backyard composting kits for a reduced rate. No kidding!

To think that you can walk across the street, or push it over the back line of your yard and it "goes away" is to play a game of pretend, and one that we can no longer afford as a community.
But with all of the options we have it is an act of selfishness not to try. It is an act of violence against others.

But it takes a different mind set.
It takes thinking beyond our yard.
It takes caring about how we leave the world.
It also takes neighbors willing to speak to their relatives, friends, and neighbors about all of the great options, and unwanted impacts folks tend not to think of.

This last part is the most complex.
I know.
I have to face it frequently.
I had to do so today.
It is a pretty tense moment even with a gentle touch for some folks.

But if we love our trails, our parks, our streams, our forest, the fish, the hawks, the swimming holes, the beavers, even the crazy bears and moose who come by to visit our City from time to time,
If we want others to see the natural beauty in where we live and to want to join us and stay,
If we want to leave this place better than we found it,
We have no other option.

It is worth it.
That much I know.

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