By Miriam Ostermann, Associate Editor
In the wake of two abrupt snowstorms that left some Strathmore residents susceptible to harsh weather conditions and unable to abide by the town’s bylaws over the previous month, the town is calling on good Samaritans to aid in the initiation of a Snow Angel program.
Although the altruistic campaign is widely recognized in Alberta, Strathmore’s pilot project is the brainchild of Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) employee Tammi Sieben.
The idea bore fruit shortly after a coldfront in November blanketed the town in snow, which subsequently resulted in an influx of phone calls from members of the community unable to clear their sidewalks and walkways – as mandated by the town’s Community Standards Bylaw for snow removal.
The town’s scarcity in resources to accommodate the requests in turn sparked the hurried creation of the volunteer-based program in Strathmore.
“It’s kind of a work in progress and we’ll learn as we go what we can do differently next year,” said Sieben.
“We need to get something going, because we didn’t have any other means for snow removal for private areas. We had a lot of residents calling us that couldn’t do it, and there was nothing we could do for them because we didn’t have the resources to do residential snow removal.”
Sieben lobbied for the program this week by visiting local businesses with information outlining the program’s intent and structure. Those unable to clear their pathways and sidewalks of snow and ice, due to limited mobility, will receive a window sign signalling the need for snow removal assistance to volunteers.
While volunteers are not expected to contact the town – rather the program takes on a see-and-do approach – Sieben encourages homeowners to nominate the individuals to the town, in order to receive a certificate and prize at the end of the season.
Still in its infancy, the program was fast-tracked in anticipation of colder temperatures in the near future.
“This is one way we’re hoping to get the community engaged and helping one another out and to entice volunteers … anybody who sees a sign can go and do it,” she said.
“We’re trying to get this out quick. It hasn’t been a long time in the making, which is why it’s still kind of a work in progress. This year is going to be a learning curve for us as we do the program, and maybe we’ll learn to do things differently or better in coming years.”
The Community Standards Bylaw for snow removal states that the owner or occupant of a private parcel of land adjacent to a sidewalk or pathway, shall remove ice and snow so that the sidewalk or pathway is cleared to the bare surface within 48 hours after the ice or snow has been deposited.
Although the program aims to lessen the burden on those residents physically unable to conform to the bylaw, the program relies on the goodwill of volunteers and in the end the onus on ensuring the snow is removed within 48 hours still lands on the homeowner. Simply placing a Snow Angel sign on the property won’t guarantee snow removal.
Sieben plans on also approaching schools, where students may be in need of volunteer hours to graduate.
Signs will be displayed until mid April. Residents wanting a Snow Angel sign can contact FCSS at 403-934-9090. A nomination form can be submitted electronically via e-mail or dropped off physically to the town office. The form and further information can be found on the town’s website (www.strathmore.ca).