I was at a retreat at Camp DuNord in Ely, MN this past weekend where outdoor activities were the focus. There was snowshoeing, cross country skiing, sauna-dipping, hiking, stargazing, and just plain old wandering in the wilderness. Fortunately, we had perfect outdoor activity weather – 30’s during the day, dipping down to the single sub-zero temps at night and an abundance of fresh snow both Friday and Saturday nights! (Plug: Camp DuNord is amazing – check it out!!)
One thing that really stood out to me was the efficiency of the camp’s snow management process. Now, I realize a camp is not a city, but snow is snow and it needs to be managed if people are to get around. Foot paths to the main dining lodge and other points of interest were cleared within a few hours of the snow fall. Rugged skiiers took care of the ski paths, but that’s the fun of fresh powder, right? A lovely maintenance man came around Saturday evening warning us of the 4″-8″ of expected snow and suggested we turn our cars around to face out of the driveway for easier exit in deep snow and told us exactly when they planned to clear the interior roads. (Highways were not their responsiblity so once outside the camp we were on our own. Can I just say Northern MN knows how to plow a road?? St. Paul, take note.)
When I read the City Pages article Let the City Take Care of Sidewalks, it reminded me of my own experience back here at home. I’m an outdoor walking kind of girl and my preference would be to walk everywhere, always, if I just had the time to do so. Camp DuNord made sure I could do that. I would gladly let the City of St. Paul do it for me as well. I think letting the snow-pros handle the job of snow removal for an urban city such as our own makes perfect sense. I know many houses on my street don’t get cleared all winter. I tried walking my dog on our normal summer route during the brief heatwave we had in January and found about every fifth house to have unshoveled or poorly shoveled sidewalks and many of the curbs were not cleared. There is no way a person who has physical limitations would be able to walk the eight or so blocks from my house to the river. We live in a diverse urban city where not everyone is able to navigate slippery sidewalks and banks of snow. I don’t think neighbor-shaming is a useful tactic and we all know it doesn’t work anyway. (Just like lawn-shaming doesn’t work, sadly.)
I’d be thrilled to let Saint Paul do something that benefits all of us – keeping the sidewalks safe and accessible for everyone. They finally got around to figuring out the trash removal issue, can sidewalks be next, please?