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December 15, 2013

Bee Investigator: Lingering leaves lead to questions in Modesto

Leaves pile up in the street, while another tree blocks a traffic light. What city of Modesto agency should be taking care of these problems?

Fall finally arrived in Modesto, thanks to a cold snap and a storm with strong winds. Almost puts you in the Thanksgiving spirit, eh? Oh, wait, it’s almost Christmas. And it feels like it.

I’ll take the heavy frost that almost looked like snow on my flowers last week. It’s much better than the actual white stuff and 15-degrees-for-a-high-temperature that my relatives in the Midwest have been facing. Brrr!

Dick Jacobs of Modesto had a leaf question:

“I’m wondering if there’s a problem with leaf pickup in the college area,” he wrote. “Big piles of leaves have been sitting on Stoddard Avenue for two to three weeks now. Usually, the city is good about picking up the piles prior to anticipated rain, but we have not seen the leaf crew in a while. Did the city run out of money for this service? If we get rain, the clogged gutters and drains could cause a problem.”

No, Dick, the budget to pick up leaves and trimmings hasn’t been trimmed out; the city’s leaf pickup service should be in your area later this week.

Jocelyn Reed, Modesto’s solid waste manager, said city crews begin to phase in leaf pickup the last two weeks of November. At that time of the year, it’s mixed with brush waste.

“In December, they only do leaves. They do not pick up tree prunings,” she said last week. “They work from a map. They are currently working between McHenry and Claus. Depending on how quickly that gets picked up, Stoddard is in the area that is scheduled (most likely, but it depends) to be collected (this) week.”

It may seem like it’s taking too long, but the crews actually work seven days a week during leaf season, Reed said.

“Where they collect all depends on where the heaviest leaf fall has been, and that varies with the weather and the type of tree,” she said. “Usually, they finish by the end of the month, but sometimes leaf season goes into mid-January. They start picking up holiday trees and brush again in January, but will focus on areas that still have leaves if those aren’t all in yet.”

So be patient; they should get to you soon, Dick.

“The crews are out there and busy, busy, busy!” Reed said.

John Kirkpatrick wanted to know about a different kind of tree problem.

If you were heading south on McHenry Avenue from Escalon, the traffic light at Stewart Road near Del Rio Country Club is hidden by an overgrown tree.

“It’s been covered by the tree for months,” he said.

I contacted the California Department of Transportation because it has the responsibility for McHenry Avenue (it’s considered a state highway, even in downtown Modesto). Angela DaPrato, public information officer for our Caltrans district, looked into it.

“Caltrans addresses any maintenance problem on the state’s right-of-way,” she said. “In this particular case, the area is not maintained by Caltrans but Stanislaus County. Caltrans contacted Stanislaus County to alert them of the tree obstructing the motorist’s vision of the traffic light and the county is sending their crew to the location.”

In other words: Not our fault, but we’re getting it fixed.

I asked DaPrato how folks could let Caltrans know if they see similar problems. She said there are three ways: through email at, through the Caltrans maintenance service request website at or by calling the public information office at (209) 948-7977.

And don’t worry about figuring out if it’s a Caltrans road or not, she added. If your problem really should be directed to a city or county, Caltrans will pass it along to the appropriate agency. Wow! A gift from a government agency; I guess Christmas is coming, all right.

Keep those questions coming, too!

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