January storms highlight snow removal challenges
By Alissa Johnson
Snowmageddon 2017 continues to keep snow removal crews busy across the Gunnison Valley, but in Mt. Crested Butte, it highlighted a couple of areas that will require some problem solving. Snow removal in Pitchfork and parking in the base area have both stood out as potential issues.
At a January Mt. Crested Butte council meeting, town manager Joe Fitzpatrick informed the council that town staff had put in 169 hours of overtime in two weeks to keep up with snow removal; 49.5 overtime hours were put in by the maintenance supervisor, Bobby Block.
“It’s important when we talk about what goes on to note that the town’s responsibility is life safety and keeping the roads open. We had a high percentage of our roads that were completely open with two lanes, but some were getting down to one lane,” Fitzpatrick explained.
During the height of the storm, Fitzpatrick and Block prioritized every road in town in terms of what needed to be widened and what could wait. They prioritized routes for Mountain Express as well as the school bus, and also placed an emphasis on keeping roads wide enough for emergency services. As a result, by the Tuesday after the storm, a few roads, such as the upper part of Gold Link, were still pretty narrow.
“But there are just a couple of houses, no other traffic and it’s a dead-end road. It is passable, and fire and police can get there without a problem,” Fitzpatrick said.
The biggest challenge, he noted, had been encountered in Pitchfork. Fitzpatrick read part of the plat for the subdivision: “However, homeowners and/or occupants of Pitchfork will be subject to difficult living situations during periods of significant snowfall. For example, cars parked adjacent to the road will be plowed in and driveways will be blocked by snow banks caused by a plow.”
“If it was just as simple as blocked driveways, it would be okay,” Fitzpatrick said. “But because people don’t clean out where they park their cars, which is private property [and] not right of way, the cars creep out into the right of way, which narrows the road.”
As a result, there were times when getting a fire truck into the subdivision would have been very difficult. In addition, Fitzpatrick noted that the manger of Pitchfork was using town right of way for private snow storage.
“I would like to thank Wayne Meredith, who allowed us to blow snow over the fence, but there is a conflict in the way Pitchfork is being managed…” Fitzpatrick said. “When we need space for right of way snow, we don’t have it, and during a storm cycle like that, it’s not possible to haul snow out of there. We just don’t have the man power and we only have one truck, so it goes pretty slow.”
By the day of the meeting, January 17, the town had already hauled 175 loads of snow out of the subdivision. That in turn raised questions about where to put the snow. Currently, the town stores that snow at the site of the future Mt. Crested Butte Performing Arts Center at the north end of the base area parking lot. It also sometimes hauls snow from the Evergreen Redstone building and the roof of the Three Seasons building.
Block pointed out that Crested Butte Mountain Resort also stores snow there from the hour-and-a-half parking lot. According to Fitzpatrick, that raises questions about not only future snow storage but also overflow parking. He noted that the previous Saturday, at least 100 cars were turned away and sent to the parking lot at the Crested Butte Community School.
“We have a parking issue because this resort has changed in its makeup. We are now bringing Front Range folks here, and they come in cars. We’re not used to so many vehicles, so parking is going to be an issue, especially as we build out the base area,” Fitzpatrick said.
There was little council discussion of the issues.