August 17, 2001 11:00 pm

The decision of the La Grande City Council this week to continue to allow backyard burning will not sit too well with members of the citys Air Quality Commission.

The citizens panel had asked for a total ban on backyard burning. City commissions and committees feel much more fulfilled when a council adopts their recommendations.

But the buck stops with the elected council members, and a majority were not quite ready to prohibit burning.

Backyard burning is currently permitted two months in the spring and two months in the fall. A free permit is issued by the fire department to those wishing to burn. Some people are opposed to all burning. Other residents try to wink at the citys regulations by burning illegally.

The council, which had been considering an outright ban, has asked Fire Chief Bruce Weimer to come up with some policies that will help the city better enforce the existing ordinance. The fire departments policy of warning, and not citing, offenders may not be tough enough to stop illegal burning practices.

Backyard burning should not go on forever. When will the city council be ready to support a ban? In one year? In three years? Or five?

The council first will want to see how the citys new yard debris disposal program is working. The program, which began Aug. 4, allows City Garbage Service customers to take their grass clippings, leaves, branches and other yard debris to the recycling site on Highway 30 on Saturdays and Mondays through November. There is no charge at the site for customers. City Garbage is adding an extra $1.75 a month to bills to provide this service.

La Grande residents should commit themselves to using this this new program regularly. They should bag up their clippings and drop them off at the center. Neighbors should pull together. If one person does not have transportation to the center, someone with a pickup truck should offer to haul clippings for that neighbor.

With a positive response to the yard debris disposal program, backyard burning could diminish significantly or vanish in a year or two. We would hope that wouldnt translate into people dumping their debris along roadsides, on farm land or in the forest. The city council will be comfortable banning backyard burning when the great majority of residents no longer see a need to burn. Well all breathe a little easier when that happens.


Its only a few short weeks until school is back in session and family members are spread out, dealing with the busyness of fall routines.

Enjoy the final days of summer by going on a picnic, taking the family on a camping trip or getting away for a half day to a remote spot. Summer is a wonderful time for families. Take advantage of the waning days of the season by doing something fun together.