Monday, December 28, 2009

Trail Plowing

I have some follow up information regarding some investigating I did about trail plowing.

It is the Parks Department that plows the trails.  Budget limitations are an issue, as 6 full time positions had to be eliminated by the end of 2009.   Here are the priorities for plowing:

The 15 Community Centers
City Right of Ways (sidewalks) that are near schools
Overpasses near schools
Lewis and Clark Landing and the Riverfront
Major Trails
Park Trails

I did pass along what I considered to be the main message that "you all" would want me to say:  the major trails are used not only for recreation, but also for transportation.

The list of priorities for plowing reflects active living at its finest; while I'm sure many cyclists wish that the major trails were higher on the list, the Safe Routes to School Coordinator in me is glad that the city is looking out for the school kids ... many of whom do not have any choice but to walk to school, even when the snow is piled up. 

Safe riding, everyone.  I know that there are many of you that have been out there battling the elements, and we salute you!  Keep posting your winter riding stories - you are sure to inspire someone else to give it a try! (It's worked on this weather weenie, I can tell you that!)

Never doubt the power of this message: "If that person can ride in the snow, I can surely find a way to ride when it is nice." 


dale said...

From a transportation perspective, the Major Trails should have higher priority than L&C Landing and the Riverfront.

The thing is, though Standing Bear Lake is a park trail, it is used as a throughway for commuters too.

Active lifestyles (walking, recreation, commuting) should have as high a priority as getting streets open. Thus, overtime should be budgetted in the future for having all the trails plowed within 48-72 hrs or whatever the street emergency plan calls for.

Talk and plans don't reveal priorities, on the ground actions do. We need to enhance the talk and plans so that on the ground actions will follow.

BlogDaCzech said...

Are there any restrictions preventing interested citizens from volunteering to do some of the work? I've considered getting an ATV with a blade and using it to clear neglected places around my neighborhood (parks and portions of a commuter trail). Is there a special permit one would need to clear parts of the trail near my house? The trails restrict motorized vehicles, but if I were volunteering would that be allowed?

It looks like the blades are around $700 and an ATV maybe 2 to 4 grand. A friend of mine told me they use these down in Bellevue to clear a lot of public areas.

Scott Redd said...

Thanks for the research, Julie. We also have to keep in mind that we were socked with two major snowfalls; a lot more snow that we typically see at once.

We'll get a chance to see how transportation cycling fits into snow removal plans when the bike lane routes are in the picture. I can tell you that I haven't been able to ride in the 16th Street bike lanes since the first snowfall. There are cars parked in them because the parking lane is snowed over, or I find snow piles in the lanes. I just ride out in the traffic lane with little issue.

BDC: I had that same thought the other day, and convinced myself that the city would not permit it due to insurance reasons. Imagine a volunteer gets hurt, or hurts another person or damages property. I even wondered if they would arrest guerrillia volunteers.

Probably the best way we can deal with this is to be out there biking, and calling the city to report walks that aren't getting cleared after the storms.

As you encounter changing trail conditions, please send to via Twitter to @OmahaCyclist and we'll spread the word to other cyclists in near real time.

Biker Bob said...

I would think that the city should also handle the major trails as they are part of the Omaha transportation infrastructure. That would include the riverfront and pedestrian bridge.

I know most people think of them as "recreational trails" but they are also bike roads.

The Douglas said...

Speaking on behalf of the suburban bike commuter, little has ever been done in the past or presently to clear trail systems and/or sidewalks in western Omaha. They do clear "sections" near schools, but not entire blocks. This is a problem obviously if you're trying to get from one place to another.

I know there is a lot of talk about midtown, downtown and Keystone snow clearing, but little is considered in areas of west Omaha like the West Papio trail system that runs from West Maple Road all the way to Lake Zorinsky, Millard Avenue and as far south as Chalco near Hwy 50. This trail system has never been cleared from end to end in the years that I've used it. When we have heavy snow I use 144th Street and utilize the sidewalks along portions where traffic travels 50+ MPH. I think traffic speed is a bigger issue for suburbanites than for commuters using midtown routes.

I hate to sound like a "What about me" complainer...but attention needs to be given to all major trail networks and sidewalks along major corridores. Exactly how long would it take to push snow from a 10-mile portion of trail? I wouldn't think it would take that much time. At least compared to the amount of time the DOR spends clearing one single intersection.

I too have considered buying my own equipment to clear trail systems but the expense is too great. I'd hapilly volunteer my time to plow snow on sidewalks and trails IF the equipment were supplied. I'd even be willing to invest in a "community" ATV and plow, even if it were part of a guerilla clearing team.

If anyone is interested in forming a "guerilla trail crew" or help find volunteers or investors in purchasing clearing equipment, get a hold of me.

Biker Bob said...

Douglas, I agree that ALL major multi-use trails should be considered if they are part of the Omaha (and surrounding areas) transportation network.

I think we should bring this volunteer idea up at the next Bike/Ped advisory meeting. We can see if the city and or parks departments would be open to a volunteer workforce for trail snow removal (Assuming we can resolve any liability/training issues that might come up).

However, the city should be responsible for this eventually. We should be pushing the city to take ownership of clearing the trails in and around Omaha that are used for transportation purposes.

The Douglas said...

Bob: We (Bike/Ped) committee has touched on this subject and I anticipate this will be a popular topic in future meetings. There are many other concerns regarding clear side-paths besides commuter use. For example, the elderly and very young who absolutely NEED to travel by sidewalk. This is why I am willing to donate my time and money to help open the trails for everyone. We would all benefit.

And regards to the "city" approving volunteers (non-city employees) to clear side walks...I can almost guarantee that they would NOT allow anyone to clear snow...mostly for liability concerns. This is why a "guerilla" crew is needed IMO. I don't speak on behalf of the police department, but I'd be surprised if any enforcement would be taken against a crew of "volunteers" who were removing snow from a sidewalk or trail.

I agree the City should be responsible for this, but the City should be responsible for a lot of things that it's not (bad grammar intended). In times like these, where the government doesn't have the resources, money, etc...the "citizens" have to take over until the government has the wherewithal.

I will bring up a "volunteer army" idea and see how well it's received. Regardless, I'm still willing to brainstorm ideas with those in the community who are interested in procuring equipment and volunteers to clear sidewalks and trail systems in Omaha.

Biker Bob said...

The Douglas... if your interested, you can present the idea at the next "Omaha Bikes" meeting. We meet the second Tuesday of each month.

If your interested, I'll add your email to the "Omaha Bikes" mailing list so we can keep you posted about meeting times and locations.

Anyone else that is interested in attending can drop me an email at omahabikes AT gmail DOT com and we will add your name to the email list as well. Only people who want to WORK for change (as apposed to complain about lack of change) need apply. ;-)

munsoned said...

We need one of these.

I've been pondering all morning about if it's possible to make some sort of bike snow blower thingy. You would need your crank to power the spinning blower blade and also somehow use a really low gear so that you move along at about 5 mph or less. That way the blower part can eat away at the snow while you move along slowly. Hmmmmmm.....

AOJules said...

I'm intruigued by the trail crew idea. Remember the aftermath of the June 2008 storms that left tree branches (and TREES) blocking the trails, etc. - an army of volunteers could have been a big help then, too. Would there be a way to take the mtb/THOR trail care model and apply it to paved trails?

Munson (and glad I finally have a face to go with the name!) - I have a weakness for pedal powered projects ........

The Douglas said...

AOJules: I used to be a board member and volunteer with S.W.I.N.T. (southwest iowa nature trails) that controlled the Wabash trace. We were, and still are a volunteer army that would take care of the trail system. Whenever there was a storm or downed trees blocking the trail an email bomb would be sent and someone would respond. In my case it only took a few hours for me to drive down the trail and clear the downed trees with a chain saw.

In our case, if snow is the issue, why not the same idea with a network of volunteers who would gather together to clear trail segments near their home. For example, the West Papio. I live closest to the far north side. My responsibility would be to clear snow from Maple to Blondo. Another person, or people could take Blondo to Dodge, and so on. The task would be too great for just one or two people. But if several volunteers with snow blowers, ATVs, plows, etc would join forces and communicate and organize I think this could be done relatively easy. Sidewalks may be a tougher task. Having trail systems like the Keyston, Papio and West Papio opened would at least solve part of the problem.

munsoned said...

I call the Aksarben area of the Keystone!

Biker Bob said...

Splendid. Looks like we have a solution forming.

AOJules said...

There are a whole bunch of dedicated runners and walkers that would probably also be willing to that they all have yakstrax on order!! :)

The Douglas said...

And rolling with Jules about finding sponsorship by businesses, such as Peak Performance, whos clientel use the Keystone. Perhaps donation towarsd the purchase of clearing equipment? A 30" 2-stage snow thrower costs around $1100.

I'm sure there is a connection somewhere out there that can buy snow removal equipment cheaper than Joe Citizen. Even more may know organizations that would contribute to the "Guerilla Army" trail clearing team.

Things to consider:
- Transportation of snowblowers
- Storage and accessibility.
- Treasurer to manage funds/donations?
- etc, etc, etc...

dale said...

I helped develop the mtb trails at Tranquility Park and worked on behalf of THOR to get a Memoradum of Understanding between THOR and the City of Omaha. The City has two concerns:
1) liability. They required THOR to be insured and indemnify the City against volunteers sueing the city while working, and users sueing the city (and THOR, individual workers).
2) Trust the organization can fulfill its responsibilities (here quickly and professionally clearing the snow).

Omaha Bikes is under the 501c3 Living Well organization. Maybe we only need an insurance rider to cover clearing snow? We would need to contract with the City, lawyers may be involved.

With 501c3, people can donate tax deductable gifts - mostly money to buy tools, etc.

Working with THOR, we found tools need to be commerical grade, otherwise tools will not stand up to the quantity of abuse and use. Thus I would suggest buying tools from a commercial dealer with a good service department. Of course you need someplace to store the tools.

This idea of a voluntary snow removal "club" will require a lot of people, time, tools, money. For example, we have over 1300 hrs of volunteer time at Tranquility in 5 years. If you volunteer to clear snow - you better have a passion for clearing snow, especially when most people using the trail will not help you clear it, and will criticize you when you don't do it well enough for their standards.

Not trying to discourage the discussion, just giving my experience on volunteering for trailwork.

The Douglas said...

Dale: Great points and insight.
I anticipate a lot of the questions being addressed at upcoming meetings with A.O. and other groups. Bottom line is if we can't get volunteer support then we'll never get this idea off the ground. What you have all done with Tranquility Park is amazing and your hard work shows. We just need to transfer this sort of action and hard work to paved trails.

Biker Bob said...

Fount THIS while browsing today. Hmm...