Almost 2,000 hours spent in leaf collection so far

Julie Myers

The “packs of angry bees” are back in action for fall with their backpack leaf blowers on, steadily working to collect leaves.

Heather White, grounds manager at Kent State, said she’s tracked 1,800 hours in leaf collection so far this season. It is becoming increasingly close to last year’s final number of 3,900 hours.

“It feels about right,” White said. “A lot of the oaks are going to hold their leaves until spring anyway, but more should drop. A number of maples still have their leaves. Leaf drop is very species-dependent.”

Jacob Biltz, grounds supervisor at Kent State, pointed out there is a lot of equipment involved with the leaf pick-up. He said there are two VentTracs with turbine blowers on the front to keep the leaf piles moving, a large blower attached to a tractor to keep curbs and drains clean and then the backpack leaf blowers, which are what he and the grounds crew refer to as the “packs of angry bees.”

Biltz said these grounds workers are beneficial in the leaf collection, especially when the leaves are mixed with snow. The extra power from the backpack leaf blowers combined with the other leaf blowers nearby help to get leaves that may have been freezing to the ground with the colder temperatures.

Biltz said there is also a large vacuum that goes around to collect all of the piles of leaves.

White and Biltz both said with the large equipment, parking lots are very difficult to reach, some more so than others. They listed the Cartwright, Rockwell and Music and Speech lots as the toughest to clean out.

Larry Emling, manager of Parking Services at Kent State, said one of the biggest problems for the parking lots is the leaf build-up by the drains. Of course snow is the big concern.

White said she was not fazed by the early snow. The crew simply waited for the snow to melt and then continue with the leaf collection.

“If weather forces us to stop, it is when winter has moved in and has not left,” White said. “Basically it has frozen the leaves to the ground, and we can’t move them.”

“Our goal is to not wait for spring,” White continued. “Spring is an extremely busy time for us with the warming of the weather, everything starting to pop, to get the place looking good for FlashFest and the end of the year events and move-out and commencement. Everything has to look great. We don’t have time to pick up leaves. We want to button that up completely in fall.”

White said the crew is two days behind because of the snow early in the week, but they are coming in at 5:00 a.m. Friday to tend to the parking lots before cars fill them.

While they are waiting for the snow to melt, White said the crew is filling salt barrels on campus. She said slippery leaves on stairs are still a main concern while there is snow, so the workers will pick those up and then salt those areas for safety.

“It’s nice when the equipment operators and the groundskeepers can come together on things and work as a team,” Biltz said.

“Typically we’re all off doing our own things, but during leaf season and snow removal and a few other things that we do on campus, we all team up and work together.”

Contact Julie Myers at [email protected].