Should snow removal be done differently in Yellowknife?
Shauna Morgan posed that question during a meeting of councillors on Monday.
When the first major snowfall of the year hit in mid-November, some residents expressed concern about snow removal in the city.
Now, Morgan wants to look at changing Yellowknife’s snow removal policy to help pedestrians and winter cyclists.
“I received lots of messages – both verbal and through email – in the early winter, and I imagine this happens every year,” said Morgan, who is in her first winter as a city councillor.
“We could look at designating certain sidewalks as multi-use paths in winter, allowing cyclists to use them and making sure those are cleared. That would also serve pedestrians.
“My sense is that this is the lowest-hanging fruit. It wouldn’t cost much money and it’s a change in the rules that helps people out.”
The city’s snow removal policy has remained unchanged since 1991, according to public works chief Chris Greencorn, although he added that the map listing priorities for snow removal is regularly updated.
Right now, Greencorn and the public works team list remove snow according to an established list of priority areas.
Morgan says sidewalks are “not among the top priorities” on that list, and wants to examine whether that should be changed.
“Most of the commuters in this city are probably pedestrians, so sidewalks would be a big priority. However, I have heard that winter cycling is on the rise,” she said.
“I was speaking with staff at Overlander Sports the other day and they said there’d been a huge increase in sales of fat bikes and winter gear.
“That we make sure sidewalks and routes are walkable is an issue for seniors, people with mobility issues, and people with kids, chariots and strollers.”
‘Very little complaint’
“We work within the means that we have,” replied Greencorn. “While the policy hasn’t been updated since 1991, public works and our crews on the road continually assess issues and try to make adjustments on the fly.
“We’re definitely open to changing the policy if council wishes but, speaking with my manager and the people that do the work, they feel this is the best way to cover town with the resources that we have.”
Greencorn says Yellowknife experienced snowfall of 13 cm between November 11 and November 14, and a similar amount between December 5 and December 7.
“I haven’t had one complaint from that,” he said, referring to the December snowfall.
“I really believe it’s the first event of the year that causes things like that. Since then we’ve done a great job of keeping up with the snow and have had very little complaint.”
Councillor Julian Morse suggested canvassing the public to find out where residents believe the city’s snow removal priorities should lie, while councillor Niels Konge commended the city’s snow removal work, adding: “I think we’re doing a good job with the resources we’re willing to commit to it at this point.”
Mayor Mark Heyck suggested councillors look at the city’s snow removal policy as part of forthcoming strategic planning sessions.