Snow Lessons

Snow is excellent at presenting facts we as citizens often overlook especially when there isn’t any snow. This post will look at some of those lessons and hopefully Mansfield can have a discussion about those lessons.

We live in New England and snow is something that happens.

This one is a no-brainer. Municipalities must plan for snowfall and everything that comes with that. The flip side of that is that voters/tax-payers must be open to assuring the funds for this important endeavour.

One common ground area I think should be explored is allowing for the snow budget line item to accumulate just like snow. This line item should be hands off for anything other than snow removal and should be bankable, not use it or lose it. We can easily experience snowfall that surpasses our budgeting any given year and allowing roll over is a good idea.

We should always have a plan for snow and that plan needs to be as flexible as accumulation is variable.

I appreciate that the experiences of the past teach good lessons. That said we should never fall into the stubborn state of complacency especially on a topic that has such heavy public safety and economic implications.

Snow plowing is only half the solution.

Plowing is actually the easy part of dealing with snowfall. The harder parts of the solution set is actual snow removal and what I’ll call immediate infrastructure follow through.

The physical and fiscal constraints of picking up huge piles of snow and putting it somewhere else is a universal budget buster. There are also environmental concerns tied to the practice that make it even more difficult.

Immediate Infrastructure Follow Through is a long-winded way of saying that snow fall and plow/removal operations have consequences. Whether signage is obscured or damaged as well as other infrastructure components such as hydrants,curbing and assorted posts etc we need the follow through to occur. For example the MFD obviously needs the hydrants. The MMED needs access to poles and ground panels and if the accompanying cold causes an issue with the pipes & drains what of the Water Dept? Lest I forget the DPW and potholes.

Sidewalks are important

On a sunny pleasant day sidewalks are important to Mansfield’s economy and the health and happiness of our residents. Cover them with feet of snow and ice and put the pedestrians in the roadways and you really discover the importance of our sidewalks.

Narrow streets are good…but there is such a thing as too narrow

Narrow streets are good and contrary to too many engineers and planners there is sound science to prove it. Narrow streets help to organically control speed and to promote safety. Narrow streets promote community and human scale. The snow narrowed street is not always a bad thing. In fact I would stipulate that many snow narrowed streets in Mansfield are offering us all a lesson on how we should view streets the rest of the year.

That said there is such a thing as being too narrow especially in the temporary state snow narrows streets. Motorists and pedestrians become accustomed to the physical space of streets and roads and when snow and ice alters this reality the outcome ranges from irritating to dangerous.

For me this point is perhaps the most important lesson. We need to plan our right of ways correctly. A big part of this is recognizing there is a difference between a street and a road. ( a separate post is due on this topic)

Sight lines are crucial for safety

Snow banks happen. So do bushes,trees,parked cars and assorted other natural and man-made obstructions. Blizzard or clear summer day sight lines are crucial for public safety. I find it a valuable lesson that the snow bank seems to be the best at getting people to realize this.

If you can’t see it,find it

This last one is part PSA and part closing lesson. Whether on town property or on or near our own private property this phrase has meaning. I think two great examples under the own property category are tree branches and kids toys. The scenario is that you heard the snow is coming and noticed your kids toy or a sizeable branch/rock in the driveway or walkways. Little helpful tip from MU…. find that object in the snow with something other than your snow thrower!

On the municipal side there’s a slight variation and citizens can get involved in this one. If you notice something that presents a danger to plows let someone know before the plow sends it flying.

The last bit is of course about fire hydrants. If you have one nearby it really is your civic duty to dig it out.

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