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Editorial: Snow removal leaves Bow Valley in the dumps

Lack of snow removal is leaving many Bow Valley residents feeling icy towards town councils.

Despite working to put their best foot forward in response to cries for better snow removal in Canmore and Banff, the town councils appear to be slipping on leftover ice.

Recently, the Town of Banff initiated a rebate program allowing residents to claim $20 towards the purchase of urban crampons to aid in navigating the icy streets.

The total funds for the program amount to $2,000, which works out to approximately 100 residents who would benefit if there are no more studded tire applications from that pool of money. It seems like a drop in the bucket for a town of 9,000 residents with more than four million visitors each year. One might compare it to shovelling snow with a teaspoon.

Banff is full to the brim with visitors, including tourists who are experiencing snow and ice for the first time. Is Banff' council putting its best foot forward in terms of snow and ice removal?

Canmore has faced similar issues. One need only look at the story of Camila Contreras, 30, who broke her leg in three places and dislocated her ankle crossing the street outside of Georgetown Pub in early January.

"I have to depend on someone, I'm using crutches," Contreras told The Outlook in January. "I wonder if the Town's budget [for snow clearing] isn't big enough? It should be. It's very frustrating because I was just walking in town and I was very, very careful because it was super icy. I kept thinking 'wow, this is super dangerous.' Now I'm in bed, I can't move... and it happened two weeks after the storm."

These are questions many Bow Valley residents seem to be asking, indicating concerns that this year's icy streets have the potential to injure another person. 

The Town of Canmore reviewed its snow and ice control policy earlier this month at Committee of the Whole, acknowledging there were some areas in the policy that might need updating. What that looks like come next winter remains to be seen. 

As of now, the Town of Canmore has a rough budget for snow and ice control of $350,000, with the potential to increase.

Meanwhile, Banff council let a proposal to increase snow and ice clearing slip away in January. The program would have come with a cost of $111,616 for 2020, $114,400 for 2021 and $117,222 for 2022.

Although the Banff mayor did note council would take a look at the budget again in April when the Town has a better idea of its surplus from 2019.

Given that both communities are still talking about the municipalities' failures to remove snow and reduce ice two months after the last major snowfall, it would appear these policies have failed to address the needs of Bow Valley residents.

While spring may be drawing closer and the days are already getting longer, one can only hope that the town councils are using time wisely. Preferably to plan for next year's winter and the snowfall we'll undoubtedly face again – as we do every year.