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Cleveland announces changes to seasonal leaf program: Residents now required to bag leaves

Cleveland residents are being required to bag their leaves instead of raking them to the tree lawn.

CLEVELAND — Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb's administration has announced changes coming to the seasonal leaf pick-up program in Cleveland's 17 wards. 

After receiving backlash for canceling leaf pickups throughout the city, the City of Cleveland has announced that residents will still have their leaves collected, but they must bag them instead of raking them to the tree lawn.

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“The City’s program was never applied equitably citywide. In some cases, one side of the street was part of the program, and the other side was not,” said Chief Operating Officer Bonnie Teeuwen. “Now, our message to all residents is the same: if you want your leaves picked up, bag them and set the bags out on your designated waste collection day.”  

Residents are allowed to set out an unlimited number of bagged leaves, which will be collected on their designated waste day. 

According to a media release, Cleveland City Council members were recently informed that Mayor Bibb's administration made this decision. 

“This was a decision that was made by the administration,” said Council President Blaine A. Griffin. “They have said it is because of capacity. Many people were looking forward to this service. Council has already received calls from angry constituents.” 

Despite City Council allocating money for the program, ultimately the decision is up to the administration to provide or implement the services. 

“We allocated money, and residents voted for an increase in income taxes, specifically to ensure that services such as leaf pickup continue and were actually expanded throughout the city,” said Councilman Kevin Bishop, chair of Council’s Municipal Services and Properties Committee. “I plan to hold a hearing on this issue and understand why Mayor Bibb is reducing resident services.”

Griffin later told 3News that residents are also questioning the timing of the announcement, since many have already raked their leaves to the tree lawn for pickup. 

"A lot of voters know that when they voted for Issue 32 these were services that they thought they were getting. In city government, you always have to make adjustments so I definitely understand why adjustments have to be made, but you have a bunch of angry and disappointed residents in the City of Cleveland," Griffin said.

He added that budget doesn't seem to be the driving factor for the decision. "I think with some of the snow events that we had last year, from what I understand, they're really trying to make sure they're prepared for the winter."

Residents who do not wish to bag their leaves are encouraged to "leave the leaves" alone.

“Instead of raking them to the tree lawn or bagging them up for collection, an environmentally friendly alternative is raking them into garden beds or around the bases of trees and shrubs, where they will fertilize the soil as they break down,” said Cleveland's Director of Sustainability Sarah O’Keeffe.  

The City of Cleveland also provided a list of dos and don'ts for residents: 

  • Do bag your leaves and set bags out for collection on your designated waste day. 

  • Do mow over the leaves and use them as mulch or start composting.  

  • Don’t rake loose leaves onto the tree-lawn, they will not be collected. 

  • Don’t rake leaves onto the street, they will cause blockages in the sewers and problems in the snow.

Many Cleveland residents are frustrated by the announcement.

"We pay tax dollars, just like they make sure the garbage gets picked up, I feel like they should do the same thing for the leaves, why would you stop now if you've been doing it for all this time, I don't understand," resident Kendra Harris told 3News.

Luis Tores has lived in his Cleveland home for 47 years. He said it already takes him hours to rake up the leaves in his yard, let alone bag them as well.

"That's why we're paying the taxes," Tores said. "So why do we have to do everybody else's job?"


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