TRAVERSE CITY — Bill Clark rises at 5 a.m. some weekday mornings and uses a small push plow to clear snow and create a path from his home to his children’s classes at Glenn Loomis Elementary School.
Clark lives on 12th Street in Traverse City and said his early start may be a bit unusual, though his actions aren’t out of the ordinary. He knows at least four other fathers who carry shovels as they walk their children to school, and other city residents who do the same.
And Clark notices almost all of his neighbors along his route clear their own walks these days, up from about half that number last year.
“The last two years we had a lot of thaws and I think people sort of backed off, let the city handle it,” Clark said. “Now we realize it’s everybody’s responsibility, and we are doing it together.”
A week of snow leading up to Thanksgiving caught city officials and many residents off-guard and prompted complaints about snow-laden sidewalks in both residential and downtown commercial areas.
City commissioners and some residents initially criticized city employees’ walk-clearing efforts, but now they’re generally tossing out compliments after a month of nearly constant snow and deep-freeze temperatures.
“We are happy that the city seems to be making an effort,” said Ben Hansen, who lives on State Street and frequently walks around town. He city officials for tweaking their sidewalk priorities and focusing on clearing walks on the busiest streets, such as East Front and Garfield streets.
“If you have to walk in the street you don’t want to walk in those streets, they’re dangerous,” Hansen said.
Hansen also took some time to clear up a misconception that plowing sidewalks is a recent city service. A long-time city resident told him in the 1930s the city used a horse-drawn plow to clear sidewalks. Hansen dug up old Record-Eagle editorials and articles from 1947, 1958, and 1963 that confirmed that contention, along with the city’s continuing efforts to clear sidewalks in those decades and residents’ propensity to complain when it wasn’t done.