Many Oak Park residents have a particular abhorrence of noisy, polluting gasoline-powered leaf blowers, making it quite clear they wish to see an end to their use. The village of Oak Park has heard their pleas, despite the deafening noise, and is now considering a more restrictive policy on gas-powered leaf blowers with the ultimate goal of phasing out their use completely.

Oak Parkers should hold off on listing their gas-powered blowers on Craigslist, however. Village President Vicki Scaman told Wednesday Journal much needs to be done before we bid adieu to that particular lawn-care tool.

“There’s still a lot more information to be gathered,” said Scaman.

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The village board has yet to have a dedicated discussion on a more restrictive amendment to the village’s current legislation on gas-powered leaf blowers — or any other gas-powered lawn equipment, for that matter. The issue was folded into a memo about the pending Oak Park sustainability and climate action plan. That memo was briefly reviewed during a wider presentation, May 9, about the climate action plan’s drafted goals.

The village board has not yet decided on any actual amendment to the village’s leaf-blower ordinance at this time. However, according to the memo, the climate action plan will include a directive to “develop a program to transition lawn care to quiet, zero-emission equipment,” with an incentive program for residents.

Scaman said the village has toyed in the past with the idea of restricting gas-powered leaf-blower usage due to the excessively loud sounds they produce. This time around, the issue has been reframed not just to address the noise pollution caused by the blowers but the environmental pollution as well.

Many gas-powered blowers use a two-stroke engine that burns fuel inefficiently and releases tailgate emissions directly into the air; the emissions contain such pollutants as carbon monoxide, potentially carcinogenic hydrocarbons and nitrous oxides, which cause acid rain, according to the Sierra Club. Animal feces, mold, pesticides and pollen can also be swirled into the air by gas-powered blowers.

A 2011 study conducted by found that a Ryobi 4-stroke leaf blower emitted almost seven times more oxides of nitrogen and 13.5 times more carbon monoxide than the 2011 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, a 6,200-pound pick-up truck. Other gas-powered blowers performed even worse in the study.

Additionally, the noise pollution caused by gas-powered blowers is more than just a nuisance. The Sierra Club reported that the lawn tools can contribute to permanent hearing loss, difficulty sleeping, and higher heart attack rates.

Despite the many drawbacks, a more restrictive ordinance won’t pass overnight, even though the memo cites community support. There will be financial impacts, of which the memo also makes note, particularly with regard to village agreements with landscaping businesses, including McAdam. Scaman wants to engage those businesses in the discussion, as well as residents, because the village can’t just require people to toss their equipment.

“I really want to make sure there are stakeholder discussions,” Scaman said.

The Park District of Oak Park has almost completely phased out their own usage of gas-powered leaf blowers. The park district began purchasing battery-powered handheld lawn equipment in 2018. PDOP Executive Director Jan Arnold said the Parks and Planning Department has not used any gas-powered handheld equipment in two years. Its conservatory department only uses gas-powered equipment 10 percent of the time, which they plan to transition out of completely, according to Arnold. PDOP is also currently looking into purchasing electric lawnmowers.

Based on their experience and success, Scaman hopes to see park district personnel included in the village’s discussion on leaf blowers.

“They are ahead of us on this,” she said.

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