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Give a hoot — rake your leaves

Don't let leaves pollute waterways
by: SUBMITTED PHOTO DOUG OLIPHANT, Lake Oswego resident Doug Oliphant is hoping that the many leaves that fall within the city will be raked up rather than washed into  our waterways.

Leaves are wonderful.

Without their golden reddish glow, fall wouldn't be fall. Kids can jump in them (and so can adults). Raking them up even provides pleasant exercise.

But if leaves are not properly taken care of they can turn into something else: Pollution.

That is where Doug Oliphant comes in. He is a leaf-control advocate. Of course, the long-time Lake Oswego resident is much more, too, but right now leaves are high on his list of concerns about keeping this city clean and unpolluted. He is especially concerned about leaves washing into our waterways.

'We all live on waterfront property,' Oliphant said. 'Everything washes into our waterways, and it's a challenge for every homeowner not to let that take place.

'If the city doesn't sweep up the leaves and the citizens don't rake them up, the leaves go directly into waterways. There's a lot of evidence in Lake Oswego that much silt is being formed, and it must be dug out eventually.'

Oliphant credits the city of Lake of Oswego with doing a good job on its end. Elizabeth Papadopoulos, director of the maintenance services department, says the city sends out sweepers three times a week to clear off fallen leaves from streets and sidewalks.

But Oliphant wants to see homeowners become conscious of potential leaf problems, and he is pushing to have the city start an education program about leaf control. He has already made a presentation to the Lake Oswego City Council, and he hopes a new perspective will result when a new mayor and three new councilors begin their duties in January of 2009.

'In 1960 we didn't have to worry about this,' Oliphant said. 'Now, 87 percent of our ground is covered with development. Yard debris - leaves, grass clippings, chemicals - washes across parking lots, driveways, and it all goes into our waterways.

'When leaves decompose, algae grows, which contaminates lakes and waterways, and streams are starved of oxygen. Large fish kills are the result.'

Good intentions can occasionally lead to not-so-good results.

'The last 40 years the public has been planting trees like crazy,' Oliphant said. 'There are more trees now than there were a hundred years ago. That is why we've got to be aggressive in keeping leaves and yard debris out of our stormwater system. They need to be properly disposed of or else put in compost piles in places where they can't be washed away.'

Oliphant comes naturally by his take-charge attitude on the environment.

'It's a family heritage,' he said. 'Back in the 1950s, my mother, brother and I swept up State Street. My mother told us, 'This city is dirty and we've got to clean it.' They had a story about us in The Lake Oswego Review.'

Doug Oliphant is still taking his mother's advice today. Only he is working to not just clean up a street but all of Lake Oswego. He sees leaf control as part of a bigger challenge that faces this city - its storm water system.

'Water is still washing off everything, and we're still using the old system,' Oliphant said. 'We're not correcting a defective system. Leaves are just a portion of the problem. We need to have a discussion of our whole storm water system.'

That is a major problem that will not be handled quickly. But Lake Oswego citizens can be part of the solution right now. They can grab a rake.