By Seth Daniel
Residents in the South End unanimously are giving high fives to the City for its efforts to plow during the height of last Thursday’s 14-inch snowstorm, but they’re giving the thumbs down for the efforts afterward.
In comments to a person and at the South End Forum on Tuesday, residents have said the clean up efforts need to be re-thought.
Two major problems that have surfaced are the snow clearing efforts around public parks, and also the removal of snow on Tremont Street – where huge mounds still persist on the edges.
Several residents commented that dangerous situations exist around Blackstone Square and Franklin Square parks on the sidewalks. Those sidewalks are the responsibility of the Parks Department, and well into Tuesday, they hadn’t been cleared or were only partially cleared. That was especially true on Shawmut Avenue – where residents and disabled residents were seen having to leave the sidewalk to travel in the narrow street at Blackstone.
It was the same situation at Franklin Square at East Brookline Street.
“It’s embarrassingly bad,” said one resident at the Forum Tuesday. “The parks on Washington Street are terrible. We all have to shovel our sidewalks and yet here is City property that has been this way for days. There is not continuity of the path. A disabled person would have to go into the street at Shawmut and on Washington.”
Moderator Steve Fox said parks have been a constant problem that needs to be improved upon.
“Parks are a problem and we really need to address that,” he said. “It’s been a problem for years. There just isn’t any shoveling of the parks.”
Ryan Woods, spokesman for the Boston Parks Department, said their first priority is the sidewalks, and then they focus on the shoveling the inside of the parks.
“Our first priority in winter storms is to clear the sidewalks,” he said. “That’s just over 38 miles of sidewalks to clear. When that’s done, we focus on the inside of the parks…Technically, the parks aren’t open in the winter because we don’t permit events there in the winter. That’s why the sidewalks are the priority. It’s really just us trying to get through 331 properties citywide.”
On Tuesday morning, Woods said he had flagged the situations at Blackstone for immediate clearing. They were done by the end of the day.
When it came to Tremont Street, residents at the Forum said the City needs to have a new technique. For example, they said, Montreal is famous for plowing snow to the center of the street and then removing it with a blower machine. On Tremont Street, the City did use its new blower machine, but only from East Berkeley Street to Clarendon.
“Tremont Street now looking arteriosclerotic,” he said. “It’s really hard to navigate, especially if you have a delivery truck parked. On a good day we have trouble. It’s definitely a concern.
Matt Mues of Blackstone/Franklin said the City needs to consider keeping street sweeping restrictions in place year round, using those times to clear and remove snow all the way to the curb during the winter – thus freeing up parking spots and eliminating snow mounds.
That has been a longtime request of the Forum, and one that many in the South End hope will be considered this year.
Overall, most residents around the neighborhood and at public meetings said they felt the City did a great job during the storm, but needs to re-think how it handles removal of snow – especially in the tight, downtown neighborhoods.