It's that time of year when people liven up, beginning their annual migration outdoors — more time spent recreationally walking, biking and firing up the barbecue. Spring rains and warmer temperatures also have sparked the growth of plant life all over town. Mowing season is officially back on the calendar and, with it, is the constant expectation to keep the lawn. Maintaining a safe coexistence between recreation and obligation is a balancing act everyone needs to keep in mind.

It's that time of year when people liven up, beginning their annual migration outdoors — more time spent recreationally walking, biking and firing up the barbecue. Spring rains and warmer temperatures also have sparked the growth of plant life all over town. Mowing season is officially back on the calendar and, with it, is the constant expectation to keep the lawn. Maintaining a safe coexistence between recreation and obligation is a balancing act everyone needs to keep in mind.

Grass clippings from mowing discarded in the street can pose a danger to others — and its against city ordinance.

The majority of city-dwellers stay on task, trimming and maintaining reasonable growth around their properties. But where do all those grass clippings go?

City of Shawnee Action Center Code Enforcer Warren Ingersoll said residents can look to City Code; it dictates where they can't go.

Under Article IV — Nuisances, Division 2 — Accumulations of Trash and Weeds, in Section 20-203. — Littering, “(a) As used in this section, the term 'litter' means any flaming or glowing substances, except those which by law may be placed upon highway rights-of-way; any substance that may cause a fire; or any bottles, cans, trash, garbage or debris of any kind, including excessive amounts of grass clippings left on city rights-of-way and streets. … ”

According to City Code, violation of the rule is a misdemeanor — and is punishable by a fine.

Perhaps more crucial is the issue of safety.

Though, arguably, Ingersoll said he has encountered very few complaints and knows of no local incidents, the issue of seasonal obstructions in the street or sidewalks can present a liability — especially given the ever-increasing population of bicycle riders in the community.

Craig MacIntyre, owner of spOKeLAHOMA, a bike repair shop in downtown Shawnee, said grass clippings in the road is a two-fold issue for bicyclists.

“First, the grass covers the street and any road hazard present, so it increases the chance for an incident,” he said. “Or what tends to happen is that it causes the rider to swerve further from the curb to avoid it which increases risk, slows down traffic, etc.”

The other problem, he said, is that the clippings themselves are hazardous.

“If they are damp they can be extremely slippery and that creates its own issues,” he said.

Generally unkempt

The biggest complaint code enforcers handle in the summer –– especially if it rains routinely –– is tall grass.

City Ordinance states that grass and weeds more than 12 inches high are a code violation. There are only a couple exceptions to the rule –– sunflowers and wild flowers, and areas zoned as rural agricultural property are exempt.

A simple lawn-mowing job can cost a Shawnee resident quadruple the cost if the city is forced to take care of it.

Protocol dictates that the owner of the property be notified when a site is out of compliance, whether the owner lives there or elsewhere.

That can become a tedious process.

There is an administration fee charged to the property if the city has to proceed with cleanup/mowing.

It doesn't have to come to that. The owner and/or renter still have time after a notice has been issued to get the problem resolved before the city steps in.

Figure in a whole summer of complaints and it could potentially add up to –– at a minimum –– a $156,000 price tag if the city is forced to deal with roughly 1,200 to 1,500 mowing jobs on average that could have been hired out for $36,000 –– or cheaper, if mowed by owners.

Many residents may want to shy away from tattling on their neighbors, but the Action Center is all about fixing the issue, not keeping score or laying blame. The city website has an online complaint form that can be filled out — and personal information of the informer is not mandatory. The same rule applies to phone calls.

To make an anonymous complaint to the Action Center, call (405) 878-1602, or for more information, visit shawneeok.org.