One night in early May, someone — maybe more than one — drove heavy equipment up to a pile of compost at the Idaho Botanical Garden and took a lot more of it than the city of Boise generally allows.
At least, that's what the city thinks happened, Boise Public Works spokesman Colin Hickman said Wednesday. The city didn't report the issue to the police, Hickman said. There's not much information about what, exactly, happened, he said. Taking the compost might not be a crime anyway, because the city makes it available on the honor system.
Still, the apparent compost heist aggravated a scarcity of compost that has irked green thumbs around Boise since the program began last year. Hickman said city leaders have heard complaints from people who want the compost but haven't been able to get any.
"The vision going forward is to greatly increase the amount of material that's available for folks," Hickman said.
Boise reserves free compost for city residents who participate in the program. The city tries to limit the amount people pick up to one cubic yard — roughly 200 gallons or a pickup load — per household, per year, Hickman said. People who take the compost are asked to fill out a document stating that they are participants in the composting program and are using it for personal, non-commercial purposes.
To stop commercial operators from taking compost meant for residents, Hickman said, Boise might set up surveillance cameras and install structures that make the pile inaccessible to heavy equipment, Hickman said.
Over the past six weeks, Hickman said, the city has hauled more than 700 cubic yards of compost to the pickup spot at the Botanical Garden. That's less than one-quarter of the total volume the city's composting site is producing, he said.
The city also is selling up to 4,000 yards to commercial customers this year, Hickman said. Boise Parks and Recreation also has applied the product to some of the spaces it maintains.
Boise leaders recognize they should make more compost available to the people who are providing the materials to make it, Hickman said. On top of providing more compost, he said, the city is looking for additional places where residents can pick it up.
The city originally planned to provide compost at Boise WaterShed, but getting trucks into and out of that site has proven difficult, Hickman said.
The good news is that the compost is nice stuff, Hickman said. The city has tested the finished product's ability to grow plants as well as for contaminants like metals and herbicides, he said, and results so far show it's "really good, high-quality material."