Depending on your perspective at this time of year, the City of Edmonton’s Active Pathways Crew is in either the removal business or the addition business.
The removing is the obvious part.
The approximately 200-person team is responsible for clearing the snow from: City sidewalks, bus stops, protected bike lanes, sidewalks around recreation centres, parks and seniors’ centres, decks, trails, public staircases and the rest of the public pathway system that is not roadway.
The adding is harder to put a finger or a shovel on. The adding is the protection of mobility and dignity and safety for those who are powered in wintertime by their feet or mechanical wheels as they conduct their routines and daily activities.
“Everyone still needs to go places and it’s just better for everyone’s health and mental well-being if they can get outside during that time,” said Valerie Dacyk, Supervisor for Active Pathways Removal.
“The facilitation of that, of getting outside and being social and interactive with the city as a whole, is a really important factor. And, so, allowing people to get out is really important.”
All the new that’s foot to print
Dacyk’s team got a welcome shoutout recently when the New York Times cited their work in part of a bigger story about Edmonton’s willingness to embrace winter.
In the article, the Times reporter, Ian Austen, here to cover a public memorial service after the crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, recounted how he spent some free time here hoping to go for a run in the river valley.
“There was already a fair amount of snow in Edmonton,” Austen wrote.
“So heading out of the hotel, I was a bit concerned about whether the trails down in the valley would be passable. But that worry lifted when I came to the dramatic stairway next to the relatively new funicular that runs down to the valley. All of its 156 steps had been thoroughly cleared of snow and ice. Ottawa, where I live, doesn’t even try to clear many outdoor stairways with as few as a half dozen steps and simply chains them off for the winter.”
Back at Active Pathways central, the kind review was good to hear.
“I’m happy to hear that they were excited about our cleaning of the pathways and other areas like that,” said Dacyk. “It is something we just do because Edmonton is a winter city.
“We take pride in making sure that it is accessible as much as possible year-round for everyone.”
Special work, specialized team
Returning stairs from slippery to safe and River Valley trails from snow-laden to run-able requires a specialized team and equipment.
In the case of sidewalks, an operator in a tailored plow typically is the first over the snow. Then a team with hand shovels and brooms follows behind, getting in harder-to-reach areas, adding traction materials if needed.
The Active Pathways team, who work day and night, schedules its work for times that decrease the chances of getting in the way of pathway users.
Thanks for the support
Dacyk asked Edmontonians to remember that Active Pathway crew members are, by the nature of their job, out in nature.
“The only thing I’d ask is that people have patience with us, these are people that are out there cleaning snow much of the time with hand tools, just dressed up for the weather,” Dacyk said.
“When it does get colder, our work does slow down as much as we try to keep things clean. Hoping that everyone has patience with us and we are working to keep things open.”