There was good news and bad news for nature in the Hamptons this week.
The bad news—we always give the bad news first—was about the leaves. From the moment leaves sprout and unfold every spring, they are terrified by the earsplitting 90-decibel sound of gas-powered leaf blowers whose only mission in life is to separate leaves from their branches, blow them to the ground and sweep them into sacks. It’s a terrifying way to live, being a leaf and knowing this could happen. They hang onto their branches for dear life all summer.
Last year, help seemed imminent. Both Southampton and East Hampton authorities proposed laws to limit the times when blowing leaves could be legal. The East Hampton Village proposal actually became a law. Leaf blowing is now illegal in that community from 6 p.m. in the evening to 8 a.m. the next morning, Monday to Friday from June 1 to the second Friday in December. It’s a partial victory for the leaves, half a loaf. It gives the leaves a chance to relax and enjoy life instead of constantly having to hang on all the time, waiting for the grim reaper to arrive. Leaf blowing is also illegal from 3 p.m. to 8 a.m. on Saturdays and on Sundays and holidays 3 p.m. and 9 a.m. Even more relief.
Last week, however, it seems there came a setback. East Hampton has proposed an exemption to that law for public parks and private and public golf courses. It was said at a meeting that in other communities where gasoline-powered leaf blowers are illegal, such exemptions are in place. These facilities cover large areas—bad for the leaves—but because there are no clusters of homes nearby where owners might be frightened by the noise, it’s not a problem, some say. This is people first, leaves second.
In Southampton Village, meanwhile, the mayor and his staff are also considering giving leaves relief. If they move ahead with their plan, gas-powered leaf blowing will be illegal all summer, from June 1 to Labor Day. It shouldn’t be needed that much during that period anyway. The only leaves that fall off the trees during those periods are those that are elderly, disabled or sick, so they deserve to die.
So far, however, the landscaper lobby in the Southampton community has been succeeding in preventing this ban from happening. They say landscaping will look “shabbier” if the proposal is passed. And they point out there is already a law on the books stating that any noise over 65 decibels is against the law between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. So, since many of these leaf blowers issue near-100-decibel roars from the moment they are turned on, the issue is already covered, although in practice it is hard to enforced since it requires measuring devices for the noise to prove a violation. If you specifically target gas-powered leaf blowers, though, enforcement could be easier to determine. Anyway, the landscaper lobby has won postponement after postponement.
The leaves in Southampton have their fingers crossed.
The good news this week for nature involves the deer in Sagaponack. That village’s government denied a request by a homeowner at 129 Parsonage Lane to build an eight-foot wire fence nearly all the way around an adjacent 34-acre agricultural reserve. It would keep the deer out. No eight-foot fences are currently allowed for residences in that community. And where such fences are allowed in other places, only the most athletic of the deer can leap over one. And so, the deer, stuck on one side of eight-foot fences, look longingly through the wire and see all that delicious shrubbery and flowers and landscaping around the private homes on the other side but simply can’t get to it.
Deer are delicate creatures and get very upset with that situation, as you might imagine, particularly at meal times. Some have even been known to become so distraught that they embark on suicide by jumping in front of cars on the roads. It’s a terrible thing.
By this homeowner’s request being denied, however, the deer have dodged a bullet, so to speak, and can enjoy their meals with gusto, at least in that part of Sagaponack. The deer hope that this turndown might become a trend so that eight-foot deer fences will be illegal and have to come down in other communities in the area.