2017-01-12 / Opinion


Grab a Shovel

Bellevue Avenue is impressive on any given day of the year, but there is something particularly otherworldly about it during a snowstorm. Absent the foliage and thrum of traffic, one is able to stand in the quiet, serene moment, pondering the sepia toned silhouettes of the large trees and big houses, and be transported back in time. The same is true for other parts of the city; no matter which neighborhood, or beach, wooded walk or harbor view, we all have our favorites – our personal quiet spots in which to stand and think magnificent thoughts.

Before the new day dawns, that is, and the expectations of good citizenry kick in.

A heavy snowfall is one of the few instances where one’s success or failure in performing a civic and neighborly duty is exposed for all to see. According to City Ordinance 9.08.110 on snow removal, those who own property in the City by the Sea – residential or commercial – have five hours from the time it stops snowing to shovel their sidewalk. The fine is $20 for the first offense and $50 for each after that.

There is no escaping the scrutiny: either you have cleared your sidewalk, or you haven’t.

Clearing a sidewalk is hard work. We applaud – and are grateful for – everyone who grabs a shovel or cranks up the snow blower and gets out there, because getting around on the uncleared walkways is even harder. Local merchants especially do a tremendous job. They have to; but still, the effort is appreciated. And on a variety of levels, stories of the good Samaritans who just get out and get the job done also make our day. Newport also has a Snow Shoveling for Seniors program, sponsored by the Community Oriented Policing Division.

With the temperature approaching 50 degrees by midweek, all of this has become moot. The snow is gone. Which brings us to our point: There is a second approach to snow removal, which is also too much on display.

Let Mother Nature do it.

For every scraped and sanded sidewalk around the city, it often seems that there’s one that hasn’t been touched. On the days after a storm, Bellevue Avenue, that magnificent promenade of snowflakes and mansions, is unwalkable in spots. And messy. And dangerous. Highest of marks go to the groundskeepers from Salve Regina and the Preservation Society for their sidewalk diligence, and there are a number of private homes also keen on being good neighbors.

But there are also too many untouched blocks of knee-high snow; one assumes that the owners, whether near or far, are just waiting for the snow to melt. It seems a shame, when the city and tourist organizations work hard to draw visitors in the winter months to then prevent them from walking along the route they so heavily promote. Any institution that wants to invite people in is accomplishing the opposite with a visual which says, "Keep Out."

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