At last Wednesday’s Solon City Council meeting, council member Ron Herdliska asked if the burning of yard waste had been a problem.
“Yes,” answered fellow member Brad Kunkel.
“No,” responded residents Sue Ballantyne and Karen Jensen from the audience.
And that just about covers it.
Kunkel has been pushing to ban the burning of yard and garden waste, hoping instead to expand the city’s curbside leaf collection to include tomato vines and dead annuals.
But opponents wonder what the hurry is, and why there isn’t any concern about the smoke caused by recreational fires, which also produce biomass particulate at ground level.
I have a foot in both fires.
My family lives on a quarter-city block in the older part of town, with many mature trees and perennial plants, and several years ago I built a flagstone patio with an in-ground burn pit. Over the years, it became the favorite hangout of our daughter’s class. On a seasonal basis, you could find a dozen kids or more out back roasting marshmallows and chasing each other around.
Four of my immediate neighbors also have burn pits or burn piles.
But then, we live in an area of mature trees and established ornamentals.
I’ve listened with interest as the council discussion has unfolded, and it brings up an interesting moral dilemma.
Kunkel continues to base his desire for a ban on health issues, yet there really is very little distinction in the smoke generated by yard waste and that created from wood in a backyard campfire. Logically, if you were to address one for health reasons, you would address the other.
But in Solon, that would be a super-unpopular thing to do.
Kunkel maintained last week he was unaware of the prevalence of burn pits, which is akin to saying you lived in hell and didn’t notice all the flames.
He and council member Jessie Ehlinger did notice the smoke around the football field on game night, but I recall seeing two residences near the south gates hosting outdoor gatherings around their outdoor fires.
The majority of council members were not interested in assigning the problem to a committee, as was suggested by the 62 residents who signed a petition presented to the city. That’s too bad.
Opponents are correct to call this into question, as the construction of the reasoning is flawed. The city has no quantifiable evidence supporting the assertion that only burning yard waste is to blame, while plenty of scientific studies indicate both types of smoke can be harmful.
I’m totally fine with a ban on yard waste burning. It takes a while to dry out all the leftover peppers that went bad in the garden and you have to work to keep the fire from kicking out embers. I’d much rather drag it to the curb and watch in wonder as a truck comes by and tries to suck up those tomato vines without busting a gut. Sitting in my deluxe camp chair and sucking down a beer with friends while some logs roar in the pit takes much less effort.
The city will have to find a different reason for the ban, because it’s not likely to make a big impact unless the can of worms sitting next to it is opened. You can also make the argument that by banning one and not the other, the city would not be providing equal protection to residents with existing health problems.
Say it will be more environmentally friendly, say it will help keep our residences look tidy, say it poses a fire hazard to burn loose combustibles. To tackle it on health issues without addressing my backyard burn pit is just blowing smoke.