Help Norte Keep Traverse City Sidewalks Clear this Winter

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Get your free shovel! If you’re willing to help shovel Traverse City sidewalks and intersections this winter, Norte and Northern Building Supply will provide you with a free shovel through the new Clear Path to Health program. Aimed at promoting safety, good health and accessibility during the winter months in Northern Michigan, they’ve expanded last year’s Great Shovel Experiment to encourage more people to participate.

“Thanks to a lot of generous people, 60 different locations around town were kept free of snow and ice last year,” says Ty Schmidt, Norte’s Executive Director. “With Northern Building Supply’s participation, we can actually provide shovels to people to hopefully grow this number substantially. A more walkable community benefits the health and well being of everyone.”

We chatted more with Ty about his Clear Path to Health program:

What was the motivation behind starting Clear Path to Health?

We started to help people like our friend Jeanne Esche who uses a wheelchair to get around. We see Jeanne Esch and her service dog, Luke, downtown all the time during the winter. She’s often in the street because the sidewalks aren’t clear or the intersections curb-cuts are impassable from the street plows. We asked her to share her experience about getting around Traverse City during the winter:

“Traverse City in the winter is beautiful, especially with snow. I enjoy being outdoors. I find the fresh air invigorating and a walk (or roll) near the water peaceful. I also need to be outdoors regardless of the weather. I also have a service dog who needs lots of exercise. Weather cannot stop us.

“The quiet of Traverse City in the snow is wonderful. The snow brings a special silence. I most enjoy taking the TART trail along the bay in winter. The summer busyness is gone. It is beautiful to watch the waves through the snow-covered trees. I enjoy going down 6th street in winter and the Central neighborhood in general. Here too, there is a lovely quiet.

“Traverse City is also at its most challenging in the winter when there is snow. Wheelchair wheels get stuck in curb-cuts that are filled with snow. I’m often not able to take the sidewalks because I cannot access them via curb-cuts or there is too much snow on the sidewalks to allow a wheelchair to get through. I know the city is working on this. I believe as a city, we may have to be creative in finding solutions to such problems. (Anyone up to building a snow plow that attaches to the front of my wheelchair!?)

“I use the streets frequently in winter. This makes friends nervous. Probably some drivers too. I’m sorry for that but it’s often the only way I can be out in winter weather to complete errands and walk my pup. I try to watch for cars and pull over so they can pass and not wonder which direction I’m going. To drivers, I thank you for your patience. Most people are very helpful and if my chair becomes stuck someone stops to help push it out. I’m very thankful for those people.

“For all people with challenges or with strollers—actually, for all people—it’s important that curb-cuts, bridges, and sidewalks are kept as shoveled as possible. After the plow goes through, I am most appreciative of those who take a shovel and clear a curb-cut or remove a pile of snow left by the plows.

“Making Traverse City walkable for all is a winter-long challenge. It’s worth the challenge to see the trees framing the Boardman River or the Bay after a fresh snowfall.

“I’d ask everyone to try to make an extra effort to keep areas shoveled for those who need or want winter access to the city. It’s more difficult for others, those with canes and walkers, than it is for me.”

How will this program compare to last year’s Great Shovel Experiment?

About the same except we’re asking neighbors to pledge to keep their residential/business sidewalk clear and (if they have time/the desire) to adopt an intersection, bus stop or a pedestrian bridge too.

Tell us about the shovels that Northern Building Supply will also be selling in their stores?

Northern Building Supply donated 50 shovels to Norte. When people take the Clear Path To Health Pledge, they can come to the Clubhouse to grab a free shovel if they need one. Also, a portion of shovel sales at both Northern Building Supply stores (Traverse City and Suttons Bay) will also go to Norte.

What other local partners will be participating in your inaugural program?

This is mostly a grassroots individual thing of “neighbors helping neighbors” but several businesses are getting involved like My Secret Stash and Miner’s North downtown.

Will you have an “adopt a sidewalk” map on your website again this year, too?

Yes! Working on that now. (You’ll be able to see which intersections, bridges, etc. have already been adopted and areas that still need help.) 

Tell us about the health benefits of your program.

This year we’re going to integrate A Clear Path to Health with Winter Walk Wednesdays to better tell the story that shoveling/clear sidewalks equals more walking/physical activity, equals healthier people of all ages and abilities community.

Written by Courtney Jerome


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