I am writing to get the ball rolling to ban gas-powered leaf blowers in Oak Park and River Forest. Last November, columnist Ken Trainor wrote an excellent piece regarding the logic of banning gas-powered blowers. Given the mostly supportive follow-up letters to Ken’s column, as well as what I’ve heard in conversations with friends and neighbors in River Forest and Oak Park, I suspect there is a lot of support to stop the massive noise and air pollution that gas-powered blowers create in our neighborhoods.
Spring is here and we are hearing industrial-scale pollution coming from gas-powered blowers as lawn crews conduct spring clean-ups. I routinely walk, run and bike throughout Oak Park and River Forest and already I’m changing my course to avoid the din. In addition, like many people, I work from home most days, and I know that once the noise starts in the spring, I won’t be able to reliably escape it until around Thanksgiving.
Why do we tolerate machines that routinely crank out 80-90+ decibels of noise — well above the threshold for human health and safety — pollute the air, and destroy healthy pollinator habitat? We require cars to use mufflers and catalytic converters to reduce noise and air pollution, and yet we allow this noise and air pollution in our front yards?
Local ordinances banning gas-powered blowers are becoming increasingly common. In the Chicago area, the towns of Wilmette, Glencoe, Evanston, and Winnetka have implemented bans, some going back years. There is also a bill in the Illinois Legislature (Senate Bill 3313) currently sitting in assignment. Waiting for a statewide ban, however, could take years.
I know that we need to consider the impact of a ban on lawn care companies and their crews. As an entrepreneur myself, I’m sensitive to the needs of small businesses and believe we need to allow for a reasonable transition time for lawn companies to make a switch to battery-powered alternatives. I can also imagine allowing for gas-powered blowers to be used for a few weeks in spring when the ground is wet and in late fall when there are a lot of leaves. Some communities have even instituted financial rebates and incentives to help landscapers make the transition.
My plan is to hold meetings with folks who are interested, conduct additional research, get a petition going, and then present a formal proposal to each village’s board of trustees later this summer. If you would like to join me in this effort, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt Gnabasik is a 22-year resident of River Forest.