SPARTA-For a handful of Sparta residents, Christmas memories may be lingering around this year longer than usual. In fact, for some, Dec. 25, 2004 is still etched in the frozen ground along the curb or at the top of the driveway. Tom Spring, director of public works in Sparta, said his crews have yet to pick up about 200 Christmas trees left out for recycling since the first week in January. Spring said he knows the trees are out there and reassures residents that he hasn't forgotten anyone. "The only trees that are left out there are the ones that are frozen into the ground. We'll pick them up once the weather breaks," Spring said, but acknowledges that "there's no way of knowing" when that will be The estimate of when that will take place was made even harder after up to eight inches of new snow fell on Sparta earlier this week. "There's just a few stragglers out there," said Spring. "With the new snow now, they'll have to stay out there a little longer. If we have a warm front, we'll be able to go out and get some more trees. There's not much we can do." Spring said his 19-member crew began collecting trees Jan. 10, bagging close to 900 in the first four days. Then came Jan. 20, and the 18 inches of snow that came along with it. "That buried them all," said Spring. "We went out and picked up as many as we could." A slow thaw prevented crews from gathering any more trees until February. By then, Spring said, those that had not already been picked up were frozen into the ground. He said his crews are reluctant to rip half of an exposed tree from the snow and leave what remains behind. According to Spring, crews are capable of taking in up to 400 trees a day. In a good season with limited snowfall, he said, it takes no more than two weeks to complete the recycling effort for more than 1,700 residents. Most residents are patient. Others, Spring said, are more than willing to call his department and spread a little Christmas cheer. "Some people get extremely upset," said Spring. "One guy called the other day and said, I want it out now.' It's not like he's going to mow his lawn." Spring doesn't expect the last tree to be picked up until well into March n and maybe even beyond. All the trees picked up are ground into about 400 yards of mulch and wood chips, which are available free to Sparta residents at the recycling center.