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Residents Ask: How Do You Clear THIS?

by ARLnow.com February 17, 2010 at 4:28 pm 2,317 4 Comments

Update on 2/18 – Several public works crews were out on Military Road today. A police officer was posted at Military Road and 26th Road this afternoon to help Taylor Elementary students cross the street.

Huge boulders of ice, snow and road filth cover the sidewalks along Military Road in the Donaldson Run section of Arlington, near Taylor Elementary School, forcing pedestrians to walk dangerously close to fast-moving traffic on the busy commuter route.

Over the weekend, the county asked residents to help kids get back to school by clearing the sidewalks in front of their homes. But some residents, fearing retribution for not following through on the request, are asking: how do mere mortals move six-foot-high mountains of icy snow?

“It would take a battalion” to clear the sidewalk, one Military Road resident said.

“I don’t think there’s a way anybody can realistically take care of this,” said another resident. In 23 years of living in Arlington “we never got this much snow piled on the sidewalk.”

Residents we talked to were particularly frustrated by the fact that the sidewalk snow mountains were the result of the county’s own snow removal efforts. After clearing the main roadway, residents said, plows cleared the adjacent bike lane, pushing the snow, ice and dirt onto the narrow sidewalk.

The county has warned that plows, by their very nature, will push snows from the road onto sidewalks and driveways. Residents say they understand and appreciate the snow removal challenges, but add that they should not be responsible for removing such massive amounts of plowed precipitation.

The county, for its part, has been actively treating some walkways. Officials admit, however, that they don’t have the resources to get to every trouble spot as quickly as they would like.

Using shovels, a Bobcat loader and a mini-excavator, a crew of 24 parks department employees and six AmeriCorps volunteers has been busy clearing sidewalks at the request of Arlington Public Schools. So far, however, most of their work has been limited to the Carlin Springs area, near Campbell Elementary, Carlin Springs Elementary and Kenmore Middle School.

Portions of Military Road near Taylor Elementary are on the parks department’s list of areas to treat, but it will probably be a couple of days until a crew can get to it, according to a county official.

While the parks crew focuses on areas near schools, a crew from the Department of Environmental Services will head out today to assist in clearing high-traffic pedestrian and transit areas. Other DES teams have recently treated walkways and bus stops in Rosslyn and Columbia Pike.

Despite the various efforts to clear walkways, the vast majority of Arlington residents should not expect the county to clear their sidewalks for them.

“It’s the responsibility of the homeowner to clear the sidewalks in front of their home, as it is for businesses and apartment buildings,” said Department of Environmental Services spokesperson Myllisa Kennedy. Still, since Arlington does not have a snow removal ordinance, residents will not be fined for untreated walkways.

Homeowners who wish to report a high-priority walkway in need of treatment should contact the county’s snow removal hotline, at 703-228-6485 or [email protected]. Some residents have complained about not receiving responses to their emailed concerns, but Kennedy insists the county is “monitoring it closely.”

  • Paula

    I walk my dog every day along Military Rd. but do not see resuming our routine any time in the near future–and not by fault of the residents. There is no way that the sidewalks can be cleared. Even when it is not a record snow, the sidewalks are not cleared on Military. Last year, I slipped on ice in front of Zachary Taylor Nature Area and dislocated my knee. Thankfully, EMS in the county works great.

  • ArlingtonAaron

    How do you clear it? You don’t remove it all, but you cut a shovel-length path through any area where there is a sidewalk, or entrance to an intersection. With a shovel. Chop down into the snowpile to loosen hardened snow into small piles in front of you, and then remove them. And if you can’t do it, hire someone to do so. And if you can’t afford to hire someone, swallow your pride and ask for a favor on the neighborhood listserv.

    Rocket science it is not. The excuses don’t cut it… and as Paula points out, the cost is more than just inconvenience.

  • Grady Foster

    The shovel width thing is exactly what to do. Dig a narrow channel and the sun will get to work, even when the temps stay below freezing. Rest in between shovel fulls as needed and pick shovel fulls up with your lower body, not your back.

    Personally, I expand the width after the sun has loosened the piles up a bit. You don’t need to do it all at once.

    When I have a neighbor who is sick, disabled, out of town whatever, I just continue on and do their shoveling as well. It’s not a big deal. It’s just about doing the right thing.

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