If you’ve been reading this paper as long as we’ve been writing it, you know this topic has come up before. Snowfalls bring to mind that Boy Scout leader who used to shovel his entire block.
Dealing with Mother Nature can be complex, so the winter snow clearing tips and tools promoted by Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, Clean Water Minnesota, and other environmental organizations bear repeating annually.
The best defense against slippery sidewalks is to get out and shovel while the snow is falling. This may mean a couple of times during a long snowfall. Then, there is less chance of walkers packing down the snow, and if it’s bound to get icy, at least the layer is thin. (Even during the below-zero temperatures on New Year’s Day, a thin coating of leftover snow vanished in the sun. It’s amazing how much easier it is to clear packed snow with a scraper once the sun starts doing its work.)
Minneapolis, for example, requires all sidewalks to be shoveled within a certain time period of the end of a snowfall. For residences, it’s 24 hours and for commercial it’s four daytime hours (beginning at 8 a.m.). Enforcement is largely complaint-driven, but in some areas they’ve tested being proactive and sending letters to slackers, giving one last chance to comply. If no result, the city will do the job and charge the property owner.
Anyone going out of town or unable to meet these requirements needs to have someone lined up to shovel for them.
Shoveling while it’s snowing may seem counterintuitive, and, of course, isn’t for people who have a tough time dealing with flying water in any form. It has to be somewhat warmer than our recent cold snap to produce snow, so if you can stand the water, the temperature is likely to be higher during the storm than after. And clear the sidewalk full width. That single-shovel path down the middle gets narrower as snow piles up throughout the winter.
The city requires corner lots to be shoveled to the street gutter. While the city will remove ridges left by plows beyond the gutter, pedestrians and especially people with strollers and wheelchairs will appreciate it if the homeowner takes the extra care to clear a path through to the street. Don’t wait until the mass freezes solid.
Those of us who have corner lots have been heard to mutter, “If you really need to use my sidewalk this early, why don’t you take a shovel and at least clear your own path.” There’s one street we know where often a passerby indeed drags a shovel or snowblower down the middle of the long side early in the morning.
Walking along Central Avenue recently, we noticed unactivated salt crystals piling up. Overused chemicals not only pollute streams, they burn pet paws and they rot concrete. Leftover salt and sand should be swept up and stored for later use.
Salt or chemicals should only be used after mechanical means are employed, to melt that bottom layer of ice.
De-icers don’t work below certain temperatures – whereas sand and gravel will give traction at any temperature. Collect sandy sweepings during the summer so you have a choice of plain sand, or the sand/salt mix the city makes available (public works garage, 18th and Jefferson Street entrance). Apply de-icers sparingly. A 12-ounce coffee cup of salt is enough to cover 10 sidewalk squares or a 20-foot driveway, according to Clean Water Minnesota.
Businesses often weigh customer service (or the fear of being sued) versus care for the environment; the environment doesn’t have to lose. A training video devoted to commercial applications, as well as a video for residents, can be viewed at mwmo.org.
More and more people choose to walk to work or for their health, and should be able to do so without harming lakes, streams, groundwater or themselves. Bless the people who shovel for money, bless those who shovel for neighbors in exchange for soup or cookies, and bless those who know who needs help.
Winter Maintenance – Residential: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qc8Y-_Nmfmo
Winter Maintenance of Small Sites (commercial): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xMt1kyzIcg