Shovel or Make Snow Angels, Councillor Jan Harder, Ottawa City


shovel or make snow angels, Councillor  Jan Harder, Ottawa City

When it snows, you have two choices: shovel or make snow angels.  We do not know who wrote that, but it is a timely reminder to appreciate or at least accept the elements that we face daily in winter.

In terms of weather, Ottawa is not the easiest place to live in the winter. The extreme weather we experience here in this beautiful city can be stunning in its beauty but cruel in its reality.  Our winters are not defined by seasonal dates but by Mother Nature.  We have seen snowfall in October to as late as May.  In the more recent years, the changes in climate have brought extreme fluctuations as we have seen in the last two months.  We have experienced heavy snowfalls, ice, rain and even a thunderstorm!  From extreme cold to Spring-like temperatures, the havoc this creates on our roads is extraordinary.  Our aging roads suffer great damage and it is a challenge to keep up with maintenance across the city.  To fix problems such as potholes, the City depends on the help of residents to report them.  When you come upon a pothole, take note of the exact location and report it online or by calling 311.

Snow removal is the other big challenge the City faces.  During and after any snowfall, the City deploys its snow removal operations immediately. Based on a road-priority system, major roads and emergency and transit routes are cleared first. As soon as the snow starts falling, the plows are immediately working to clear the priority roads and will continue until the roads are clear.  Minor collector roads are given secondary priority with residential roads and lanes coming last.  Sidewalk clearing is also based on a priority system with the downtown core being the first to be cleared, followed by residential and pedestrian crossings. Despite an increase of $2.3 million (for a total of $68.3 million) in the 2018 winter operations budget, affordability remains an issue. Remember that Ottawa is 2 778km2 and 80% is rural.

It is imperative that residents do their part to help the City make winter maintenance reliable and efficient.  Parking bans are there to help the snow crews clean the roads faster and better.  As well, it is illegal to pile snow from your property onto the street or sidewalk.  Some of you may have seen yellow boxes throughout the city and wondered what their purpose was.  These do-it-yourself grit boxes are placed close to steep hills and areas where there are many pedestrians.  Feel free to use them to spread grit on slippery areas!

Still, despite the many challenges of winter, we are also fortunate to live in a place that embraces winter such as Ottawa does.  The most concrete example is the splendid Rideau Canal Skateway.  At almost 8 kilometres long, it is a luxury to be able to skate on the Rideau Canal – Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Take advantage of this treasure – grab your skates or boots and a beavertail and give yourself a chance to enjoy this unique place.  Please do partake in the many Winterlude activities like outdoor concerts to ice carving competitions, ice dragon boat racing to a triathlon.  There is something for everyone to see and do.

Yes, winter can be a challenge with all the frustrations of winter commuting and one is never quite sure whether to be proud that Ottawa can sometimes claim to be the coldest capital in the world.  What is certain is that it is much more enjoyable to make those snow angels.  So grab a parka, boots, a toque and mitts and enjoy nature’s gift.