After digging out from the week’s snowfall, some residents in St. John’s were digging out from the snowclearing.
© — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
Employees of the Newfoundland Chocolate Co., calling themselves the “snow patrol,” shovelled out several downtown blocks in St. John’s Thursday to help out pedestrians.
Brent Smith, “chief chocolate officer” of the Newfoundland Chocolate Co., arrived at his Duckworth Street shop Thursday morning to find the entrance blocked by a large mound of snow.
“I knew the city was doing a pushback operation last night, and I was in contact with them yesterday, saying, ‘That’s great, because we need the parking spots,’” he said. “I know they were considering doing a removal, and I encouraged them to do that, but they didn’t. They just pushed it all, and as a result it was right up on our doorstep.
Smith and his employees broke out the shovels to clear a path to the door, and then went up and down Duckworth Street to do the same for several of their neighbours, sticking signs up that read, “This snow passage brought to you by the Oompa Loompas of the Newfoundland Chocolate Company.”
“We said, ‘OK, b’ys, let’s have some fun with this.’ Tempers are flaring downtown,” he said. “There is a serious note to this, which is it’s extremely challenging running a business downtown in the winter when snowclearing operations are as limited as they are in St. John’s. … The day after a storm, when people are trying to climb over snowbanks like billy goats, it has a profound impact on sales.”
The city acknowledged crews did not plow a four-street section of Southlands which was accidentally missed as plows hit the streets following the 40-centimetre dump earlier this week. Southlands residents said Thursday it was worse than that.
Sherry Myles disputed the city’s claims that just four streets in the area — Sumac Street, Douglas Street, Sitka Street and Kenai Crescent — were forgotten by snowplow crews, saying her street, Palm Drive, was also untouched, along with Almond Crescent, Bayberry Place, Parkview Crescent and Ironwood Place, for about 30 hours.
Myles said area residents were calling the city’s 311 line to report problems Tuesday evening, long before the city says it discovered the mistake Wednesday morning.
“We called the 311 line several times to ask where the plow was,” she said. “You wait overnight Monday, and it’s still storming on Tuesday and you understand that even if you’re plowed then you’re going to need another run. But nothing. Nothing was done all day Tuesday. We did our driveways, but we couldn’t leave. You can’t drive once you get to the foot of your driveway.”
Things were looking better Thursday, said Myles, adding that once plows started arriving Wednesday morning, they appeared to be eager to correct the problem.
“It certainly seems like there was an extra effort because of what happened,” she said.
Among those putting in the extra effort were not just city staff but an elected official as well. Ward 5 Coun. Wally Collins broke out his own backhoe to help clear people’s driveways.
“The b’ys couldn’t get to it, basically. They were just so busy, it was drifting so bad, they had to go back to Ruby Line and Back Line to keep it open. … They just ran out of time. They had a few streets left. Two or three people called me, so I said I’d go over and help them out,” said Collins, adding he wasn’t at it very long Wednesday before city crews arrived.
But just a few days after a rally at city hall saw fed up St. John’s residents submit stacks of complaints about the winter’s snowclearing, another protest is planned.
Andreae Callanan has organized “Dude, Where’s My Sidewalk” for this afternoon at the bus stop outside the Memorial Dominion on King’s Bridge Road from 4:30-5:30 p.m.
“We want it to be peaceful. We don’t want people blocking traffic. I promised the RNC we wouldn’t block traffic,” she said. “What we want is for people to gather at the intersection there by Memorial Dominion, just to line the sidewalks — or where the sidewalks should be.”
Protesters will hold signs and “interact with drivers in a positive way,” said Callanan.
“We understand that they don’t want to be driving with us in the road, either,” she said. “We just want to keep pressure on the city, and let them know that we’re not going to back down on this issue. They’ve made their promise now to hire on someone to look into this situation, to assess what the possibilities are for snowclearing, and we want that to be transparent. We want community engagement there. We don’t want this to be somebody sitting in an office and looking at a map.”