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Sidewalks slip down the priority list in Nelson’s new city snow and ice policy

The policy won’t be changed again until next year
The city has changed how it prioritizes snow removal. Photo: Tyler Harper

by Timothy Schafer

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily

For those who regularly walk the city sidewalks, the trip might be a little more precarious this snowy season.

The city has established a new Snow and Ice Control Policy but has the priority of sidewalk and stairway clearing behind the completion of the city’s streets.

The idea of leaving all of the city’s sidewalks off the priority list did not sit well with Councillor Keith Page.

“It occurs to me that, having walked the streets throughout the winter and talking to other residents, there are certainly priorities within our priority sidewalk network in terms of getting people — especially during heavy snow events — downtown because they can’t pull their cars out,” he said during the Dec. 6 city council meeting.

“The way we have it stacked now it is all roadway values; once they are complete then we get to sidewalk values.”

Only once those are complete will the city get to stairways, of which there are many across the city.

“In terms of having an integrated plan that supports all of the traffic, is there room here to consider how we might take some of those core routes that get you from areas of the city to the core — in some other priority setting — or improve their priority setting so that at least they don’t fall to the end of the very far, dead end roads,” Page asked.

Snow plowing and ice control on city sidewalks is the responsibility of the residents or business of which the sidewalk fronts, according to the City of Nelson Traffic Bylaw.

But the policy can be amended to move sidewalks up the priority list, noted city director of operations Charlie Henderson.

“If we want to highlight certain priorities to be looked at we want to be sure it’s a fluid motion for that machine to move throughout the city,” he said. “We want to ensure that our productivity rate is high as well.”

Mayor Janice Morrison said the policy would be adopted as is this year for the current snow season, with any changes back on the agenda for the next snow season.

City manager Kevin Cormack said a conversation around what priority level sidewalk snow clearing should be set at is something that needs to happen, but not in the current snow season.

“It is an (upcoming) budget discussion if you want to increase your resources for this,” he said. “But what we need to cement now is, based on our existing resources, this is how we are going to approach our snow removal.”

The policy was approved by city council. To see where your street is on the priority list, visit and go to page 10.

The priorities

The city has designated roads as the main priority for snow clearing, with several grades of roads set ahead of each other.

The city will initially plow priority one roads and maintain priority one roads to a bare surface condition until the termination of a snow event. Those roads include emergency routes, bus routes and the downtown core.

Once priority one roads can be maintained to a bare surface condition, priority two roads are tackled and include critical utility routes and major hills.

Priority three roads — cross streets, intersections, crosswalks, handicapped parking and bus stops and fire hydrants — will be plowed to a compacted snow surface once priority one and two roads are maintained to a bare surface condition.

Priority four roads — dead end streets — will be plowed to a compacted snow surface once priority one, two and three roads are maintained.

Priority five roads — rear lanes and dead end lanes — will be plowed to a compacted snow surface only after other roads have been maintained to the service levels.

Exceptions will also be made where an emergency request is made for police, fire or ambulance access.