WEST ORANGE, NJ — In response to frustrated comments that West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi said he is confronted with each year during this time regarding the challenge of navigating the fallen leaves that line the township’s streets, the mayor addressed the time-consuming process of leaf removal.  

According to Parisi, West Orange has nearly 100 miles of municipal roads, and each of these needs to be cleaned multiple times during the season. He said that this process is often interrupted by weather conditions and is dependent on when the leaves fall from the trees, and asked for a little patience from township residents.

“The timing of when leaves fall from trees is determined by the species of tree and, more importantly, the weather throughout the year; meaning heat and moisture levels and the impact they have on the natural process of trees shedding their foliage for the year,” Parisi said in a statement released on Wednesday.

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Although the township posts an estimated schedule of leaf pickup early in the season, Parisi said that the schedule is meant as an overall guide, and that it is not realistic to expect the township to follow the schedule to each specific day.

“Early delays, weather-related among them, only compound further delays weeks later,” he said. “These delays do not mean the township will not pick up all the leaves and it does not mean residents cannot put leaves in the streets when it is convenient for them. Regardless of all delays, the township will not stop until all leaves are picked up.”

Additionally, Parisi addressed the common request from residents to bag the leaves rather than placing them curbside, stating that “the administration does not believe this is a good option.”

“West Orange is blessed to have many trees and beautiful, tree-lined streets; these trees produce a lot of leaves,” he said. “Requiring residents to bag these leaves, to pay landscape gardeners to bag them or to pay landscape gardeners to truck them and dispose of them would add a cost of time and dollars to residents…and in many cases, the added cost would be significant and could exceed $1,000 for trucking and disposal on an annual basis for a service the township is currently providing.”

According to Parisi, adding this significant cost to property owners would not provide any reduction or savings in tax dollars.

He explained that the crews that clean up the fallen leaves are the same crews that perform all other public works functions, including snow removal. In other words, if the township required property owners to bag or dispose of leaves themselves, these crews would simply work on other responsibilities during this season with no reduction in the township’s operating costs, he said.

“All residents have a responsibility to each other during this time of year: to be careful when driving on wet leaves; to be careful when parking near piles of leaves; to be careful when streets are temporarily narrowed because of leaves; and, most importantly, to be as careful as possible in attending to piles of leaves in front of our homes,” said Parisi. “We, the residents, have the responsibility to keep the piles neat and orderly after the rain, snow or wind so as not to further minimize parking opportunities on our streets or to add to already hazardous driving conditions.”

Parisi added that residents should clear leaves from catch basins near their homes and pile the leaves a few inches from the curb if possible to allow for water to flow along the curb line when it rains.

“And as a gentle reminder: the township does not make the leaves fall from the trees; the township does not determine when the leaves will fall from the trees; the township does not make it rain or snow; the township does not make the temperatures drop well below freezing,” said Parisi. “The township does the best we can to accommodate Mother Nature and provide this important service for the community.”

Although this process takes time, Parisi said the Department of Public Works (DPW) will continue to work on leaf removal for as long as necessary. He said that this has often continued into the new year, but that the DPW will work within the confines of the weather and holidays until all the leaves are picked up on all roads.