BY ELLIE HENSLEY
Midtown offers some un-be-leaf-able autumn views this time of year, when the district’s 2,700 street trees turn glorious shades of red, orange and yellow.
The bright colors are also a signal to our Midtown Green landscaping and maintenance team that their fall leaf pickup duties are about to begin for the year. Keeping streets and sidewalks clear of leaves is more than an aesthetic issue, it is also about preventing people from slipping and falling, and keeping storm drains clear.
“Like everything else about the way Midtown Green operates, it boils down to public safety,” said Rusty Bishop, Midtown Green assistant manager. “If the streets and sidewalks are covered with leaves, it translates to possible hazards for pedestrians and motorists, and it can also cause flooding.”
Some species of trees, like the gingko, lose all their leaves at once, but most drop the leaves slowly. Leaf pickup typically begins in late September and lasts until mid-December, according to Bishop.
“While they are shedding, we’re mainly trying to keep sidewalks clear to prevent people from slipping and doing some removal of pileups,” Bishop said. “It’s a constant battle while the leaves are falling to remove everything on a daily basis, so we try to maintain them throughout the season, and then when they’re finished shedding we do a big leaf cleanup.”
The Midtown Green team uses its all-terrain ride-on litter vacuum to sweep the leaves away from the surface off the streets and sidewalks, but once they’ve gathered into storm drains, they must rake them out and collect them manually. Clearing storm drains is a task the 15 members of Midtown Green are responsible for all year long, as the drains also collect dirt, litter and debris from construction sites. One of the biggest issues in the district that complicates this work involves situations when landscaping companies at private properties blow sidewalk and plaza debris into the street. Midtown Green's staff continues to work to educate property owners about the districtwide problems that come with cutting corners on disposal.
Midtown Green removes leaves from the public right-of-way in addition to spaces Midtown Alliance maintains, such as 10th Street Park, MARTA station plazas and the publicly accessible area in front of the Margaret Mitchell House.
Leaf collection in the fall takes the place of tasks such as cutting grass and weed eating that need to be completed less frequently during the cooler months than during the summer, Bishop said.
“We have to change with the seasons,” he said. “Fall and winter is when we have a lot more time to do special projects like pressure washing, deep cleaning, leaf removal and holiday light programming. It kind of opens the doors to focus on different areas.”