Ridgefield’s open spaces and trails are truly one of the “perks” of living in our beautiful town.

If you have not hiked Hemlock Hills, strolled Florida Refuge, climbed Pine Mountain, wandered Casey Lane/Mar-Joy Pond, or explored Old Sib — you are really missing out. And, those are only five out of the nearly 60 glorious open space locations (over 30 with trails) that we are lucky enough to have in Ridgefield!

The Conservation Commission is responsible for overseeing and maintaining these open spaces so that the public can safely enjoy these natural gems.

Often times, the commission is notified when a homeowner (whose property borders open space) dumps cut trees, shrubs, leaf litter and other debris into the open space. These activities are considered violations under the town’s Open Space Use Ordinance. Just as you would not dump debris from your lawn onto your neighbor’s lawn, open space is the property of Ridgefield; in essence, it is the same scenario.

While it might seem harmless to blow leaves into the forest/open space (leaves are “natural” after all…), the damage from this can be pretty serious and there are very specific reasons as to why this is actually an illegal activity. Here’s why:

  Piles of leaves can collect moisture that will promote rot, hurting (and even killing) trees. Even mature trees can be damaged when debris is piled against their trunks.

  Raking or blowing leaves from your lawn out to the forest edge creates an ideal habitat for ticks (actually attracting more ticks to your property, as well as increasing tick population on nearby hiking trails).

  Dumping of leaves and yard debris into the forest (open space) smothers native understory plants on the forest floor preventing seedling development and degrading habitat. Ferns, wildflowers and tree seedlings are smothered and killed. This results in loss of habitat and food sources for native birds and animals.

  Dumping leaves and yard waste can easily transport invasive species to the forest. Often, this waste contains seeds of undesirable plants. This is a real problem.

  Leaf piles can become “home” to mice and rats.

  Grass clippings and other yard waste can contain pesticides or fertilizer. These chemicals harm forest plants and animals.

 A forest ecosystem is only able to process the amount of leaves created by the trees within that forest. “Decomposers” (bacteria, fungi, earthworms) can only breakdown a certain amount. Piles of additional leaves from neighbors’ yards will overload the system. The result is piles of leaves that last for years which continue to smother existing plants and preventing new growth.

Often times it is not the homeowner who is dumping debris or blowing leave from their property into the open space, but rather their landscapers. Keep in mind that it is the responsibility of the homeowner to make sure that no dumping occurs in open space.

The fines for dumping on open space are significant (up to $250 per day!) with clean-up costs in the thousands. So please be sure to monitor your landscapers if your home borders any of Ridgefield’s open spaces.

For information on any of Ridgefield’s open spaces and trails, visit the Catalog of Open Spaces on the town website at: www.ridgefieldct.org/conservation-commission/pages/catalog-open-spaces