With the Durango area receiving more snow than in recent years past, piles of plowed snow have begun to form around parking lots and roads of Fort Lewis College. Displaced snow can cause safety hazards to drivers and pedestrians.
Snow removal on campus parking lots and roads, including Rim Drive and 8th Avenue, is the responsibility of FLC’s Physical Plant. Snow built up on city streets are removed by city employees, Durango street superintendent Mike Somsen said.
This snow is hauled to a snow farm, where snow is dumped to keep it off of the streets and control where it melts.
From an environmental standpoint, the accumulated snow does no harm to plants and wildlife in the area, Environmental Center staff member Paulu Pletnikoff said.
The piles cause slower melting than would happen if the snow was laid out flat and spread evenly, Pletnikoff said.
“Big piles insulate and reduce melting which causes the water to enter the ground at a later time, and prolongs the availability of water to plants,” Pletnikoff said.
Keeping the water available can be a positive thing for the environment, Pletnikoff said.
Snow removal is done for safety reasons primarily, since snow accumulation does not cause environmental harm.
“It’s a safety concern with vehicles being able to see pedestrians,” Somsen said. “We also remove snow to make room for parking downtown.”
Removing snow also prevents flooding from the snow melting all at once, which can become an issue when snow freezes in gutters and prevents the melt from being able to run into drains, Somsen said.
Melting snow can also cause problems when it freezes at night.
“We get these big snows and then bright sunny days, which melts the snow,” Pletnikoff said. “When we get a huge water melt it spreads out over roads and sidewalks and then freezes overnight which creates a safety hazard.”