Leaves pile up on free disposal days

Spurred by coupon, hundreds dumped off truckloads over weekend

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor



NEAR BRUSH PRAIRIE — Three generations of the Wilhoits of Brush Prairie were busy Sunday taking advantage of the free leaf drop-off program.

Leave your leaves Free leaf drop-off locations:

H&H Wood Recyclers, 8401 N.E. 117th Ave., 360-892-2805.

West Van Materials Recovery Center, 6601 N.W. Old Lower River Road, 360-737-1727.

McFarlane’s Bark, 8806 N.E. 117th Ave., 360-892-6125.

The program is for leaves only, not yard debris. Coupons are required. Leaves must be emptied from plastic bags.

On the Web:

For a free leaf coupon, visit Leaf Coupon.

John Wilhoit, father and grandfather, was on the ground, with son Steve and grandson Brody, 6, in the bed of a blue Chevy pickup.

They were getting rid of their second load about 3 p.m.

“At least 1,500 pounds,” John Wilhoit said of the leaves.

Brody called the whole operation “cool” as he stared up at excavator operator Shane Kirby, 22, at H&H Wood Recyclers near Prairie High School. The big machine was perched on a giant pile of leaves, approximately 20 feet high, 30 feet deep and maybe 100 feet long.

The Wilhoits were among about 300 folks who brought a coupon to dump leaves on a sparkling Sunday. The leaves were from their flowering cherry and maple trees.

“It’s a great program,” John Wil

hoit said. Without it “they just end up in the river. You can’t burn ’em.”

John Wilhoit smiled when asked if he enjoys the day.

“It’s becoming a tradition,” he said.

Nearby, Matt McCallum was getting help from his daughter, Michelle, 16, a Hudson’s Bay High School junior. She was standing in the bed of a trailer Matt built in 1987 when he was an Oregon State University engineering student.

“Magnolia is the worst tree ever,” Matt advised. “Every season it’s dumping.” He said his loads also included leaves from his neighbor’s big maples. The family lives in McLoughlin Heights.

The leaves were in five garbage cans.

“I step on them, as much as I can, to stomp them down,” Michelle offered. Her dad added: “We do this every year.”

The city of Vancouver and Clark County spent $25,761 last year to run the program, which distributes coupons that allow people to drop off their leaves for free, said the city’s Elsie Deatherage. She said the cost would be about the same this year.

She said the program is worth the investment because the free coupons provide an incentive to not rake leaves into streets, where they can plug storm drains.

“It’s been a very busy day for dropping off leaves,” said gate attendant Kristin Clark. She said about 200 coupons were presented Saturday and about 300 on Sunday. The program continues until Dec. 20.

She said the leaves will be turned into leaf compost, which sells for about $22 a yard.

Brian Galbreth of the Ellsworth neighborhood brought his fourth load of the week on Sunday in his 2010 Ford F-10 pickup. He has two 150-year-old maple trees and “the canopy of the two trees covers pretty much all the property.”

“It’s a battle,” Galbreth said of cleaning up the leaves. He said he gets help from his wife, Ginny, and Scotty the border collie “makes sure we are doing the job to his satisfaction.”

But now, “I’m done,” Galbreth said. “I bet it’s close to 1,500 pounds.”

He praised the leaf program, saying, “I take full advantage every year.”

He also said he wished he could find a person who wants the work.

“I actually posted on Facebook a request for a rake operator, but I didn’t get any offers,” he lamented.