Who Should Shovel St. Louis Park Sidewalks?

The current system splits the duties between the city and residents.

With a few inches of snow on the ground—and more in the forecast today—St. Louis Park residents are looking at something that has become an uncommon task this winter—shoveling sidewalks.

But if it were up to Ward 1 councilwoman Sue Sanger, more of the load would fall on the city.

St. Louis Park has 110.6 miles of sidewalk, of which 62.7 miles—or 57 percent—are “neighborhood” sidewalks that must be shoveled by adjacent property owners or property managers. The remaining sidewalks are dubbed “community” sidewalks. City staffers plow these busier walkways, such as the ones that run along Louisiana Avenue.

Sanger said the sidewalk designation is “arbitrary,” and she's called for all St. Louis Park sidewalks to be handled by the city.

“A number of other communities plow (for everyone),” she said. “(A St. Louis Park resident might say), ‘Why are my taxes paying for (my neighbor’s) sidewalks to get plowed and not mine?’”

In nearby Edina, Golden Valley and Plymouth, all snow removal on local sidewalks is handled by the respective cities. Sanger said such a system helps ensure that sidewalks are maintained to a consistent level—and helps residents get around.

But other council members have balked at her idea, particularly because of the extra price: City staff estimate the extra plowing would require six new workers, six new plows, and cost $465,000 more per year. The city currently spends about $75,000 per year to take care of its share of sidewalk snow removal.

Councilwoman Anne Mavity doesn't agree with what she called "sweeping aside the system in place." She would rather see more concrete definitions for “neighborhood” and “community” sidewalks. She also stressed enforcement of shoveling requirements.

“I have never heard a demand for shoveling everyone’s sidewalks,” Mavity said. “It would seem we’d get more flack for spending tax dollars that way."

While Ward 3 councilwoman Sue Santa agreed that more rigid definitions would be good in delineating the two types of sidewalks, she said nobody in her ward has expressed confusion about the current system. Councilman Jake Spano said he sees neighborhood shoveling as an opportunity for “neighbors to help each other out,” particularly when it comes to making sure elderly residents can get around.

Sanger said relying on residents to shovel for each other is a “nostalgic, small town idea” that isn't realistic. Despite Sanger’s insistence, the idea of the city taking on plowing duties for all local sidewalks doesn’t seem to be going anywhere at this time, as it doesn’t have enough council support.

“I think the system in place has been working,” councilwoman Mavity said.

This look at nearby cities reveals it's not uncommon for cities to clear sidewalks:

City Sidewalks maintained by city (in miles) Sidewalks maintained by residents (in miles) St. Louis Park 47.9 62.7 Bloomington 300 - Crystal 24.5 2 Edina 25 - Golden Valley 44 - Hopkins 2.5 19.5 Minnetonka 26.5 - New Hope 28.5 - Plymouth 70 - Richfield 41.5 - Robbinsdale - All (number not specified)

Source: City of St. Louis Park

Dick Salzer February 29, 2012 at 01:10 PM
St. Louis Park doesn't even plow all the sidewalks it owns now! Check out a spur from Carpenter Park. Of course Golden Valley clears all sidewalks. Most of the city has none. Those that it does have are along side major streets. A Triangle Park Resident
Isaac February 29, 2012 at 02:56 PM
I hate when Edina plows my sidewalk because it comes after the plow and blows all the dirt and salt into my yard. Kills my grass every year and has completely eroded my landscaping rock - who is going to pay for that?
Barbara Aslakson February 29, 2012 at 03:53 PM
We wonder if most residents would rather have leaf pickup.
Rob February 29, 2012 at 03:54 PM
I think there are probably better ways to spend tax dollars.
Carol Bungert February 29, 2012 at 05:48 PM
I agree that there are better ways to spend tax dollars. The current system has worked for years. The city just needs to enforce the rules and make sure residents are clearing the walks.
Tom Witta February 29, 2012 at 11:12 PM
I have added a photo from last year of my property that has a city installed sidewalk running along side of it. The sidewalk is between the fence (destroyed by plow) and the street. It would be unrealistic to expect anybody to shovel that mound.
Emily B March 01, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Property owners need to shovel. I walk a half mile (to/from the bus) on Louisiana twice every day and the city plow never gets down to the sidewalk, leaving a depth of snow that is difficult to walk through, which is really not helpful to pedestrians. However, since the city does it, residents don't seem to think they have any obligation to keep it clear. As a home owner, if you own property with a sidewalk, you have a responsibility to keep the sidewalk clear.
Dennis Morris March 01, 2012 at 03:57 PM
The current method of snow removal utilized by the City does not adequately remove the snow and ice. Brushing the snow aside leaves behing compacted snow and ice which eventualy creates an ice path which the City never attends to during the snow season. Lets admit that it requires salt, sand and sweat to create a walkable sidewalk in a Minnesota winter. Don't forget your senior or infirm neighbors and fire hydrant clearing when pitching in to keep our sidewalks and streets accessible in the winter.
Emily B March 01, 2012 at 04:12 PM
So true Dennis. This morning the sidewalk on Louisiana was mostly a skating rink, making it actually safer to walk on the street (or the compacted snow mounds between the street and sidewalk, which is a huge pain in the rear). I saw one guy shoveling while I was walking to the bus and I was super hopeful he'd clear the public walking part, but as I got just a few houses away, he stopped right at the "T" where his personal walking space ended. Super frustrating. To be honest, a few handfuls of sand would go a long way to prevent falls - I've had a couple hard ones myself and one of my bus companions fell the other day. Without something to combat the ice, it is dangerous for people of all ages and mobility (including folks like me in my 20's wearing brand new boots with good tread), but especially those you mentioned.
Michael Rose (Editor) March 01, 2012 at 04:15 PM
That's a really good point, Emily. I'm not sure if those smaller plows the city uses for sidewalks have sanders or not. I'll find out!


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