Two weeks ago winter arrived with a vengeance across the length and breadth of the Squamish Valley. Along with the frightful weather, what we got quite literally was a snow job from some members of the local business establishment and the District of Squamish, who give lip service to a more vibrant community but fail to provide adequate security for pedestrians left to fend for themselves on slippery downtown sidewalks.
According to the Service Squamish Initiative, the district’s mandate is “to protect and enhance the liveability and sustainability of our community” and to “be responsive to the needs of our community.”
A number of angry local residents recently lit up the DOS Facebook page with an unambiguous message about the lack of snow clearing on Cleveland and Second Avenue. Chaya Jorgensen cut to the quick when she announced that “the sidewalks of downtown Squamish are deplorable... I just spent 45 minutes walking from downtown Squamish to the Adventure Centre pulling a double stroller backwards behind me and in some areas was left with no other choice than to walk on the road with cars honking at me.”
Randi Olson was convinced that even for somebody with healthy legs, “those sidewalks are horrible” and “a person in a wheelchair would not be able to move around.” Micheline Grondin said she was wearing her baby in a carrier and “had to walk on the road most of the day because the sidewalks were way too slippery... I’ve also worked with clients in wheelchairs and getting around in the winter is a HUGE challenge.”
After Michelle Walton saw a senior slip and cut his head, she declared that “someone needs to make sure sidewalks are clear.”
District of Squamish officials responded to these concerns with the following note: “Thank you all for your comments and for sharing your frustrations and photos. It is the responsibility of private landowners and businesses to clear their sidewalks — even if their land is vacant land. Many of our business owners and residents are doing a great job of this, and we thank them. Others need more of a push. We will endeavour to continue to remind and educate.”
Although the municipality spends countless tax dollars promoting local attractions, including the downtown, those big-league aspirations quickly turn into a bush-league delivery after a dump of the white stuff.
It’s time to ditch the wishy-washy reminders and sketchy education programs. Since we can’t count on consistent snow removal by vendors and business property owners, why not just make it a district responsibility to clear sidewalks and either pass the cost on to merchants or find a way to cover the tab out of the existing municipal budget?