Oh, The Weather Outside is Frightful?
The typical weather of the Ohio River Valley’s winter months can provide some of the most beautiful scenery and enjoyable experiences imaginable. Few vistas are more rewarding than those that include snow or ice-draped trees, a low winter sunrise (or sunset) or the progressive range of blue shadowed snow spreading across low hills or farm fields.
For the Great Parks Operations department, though, the realities of a winter snowfall can sometimes obscure the aesthetics experienced by others on these occasions. At a very basic level, Operations has the responsibility for plowing and treating our park roads, making them safe for park guests and employees alike to use and enjoy. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we don’t also enjoy and appreciate the beauty of the winter months – it just means that we often tend to view the snow through a slightly different lens.
For many Operations crews, an overnight snowfall accumulation means an early call-in and start to the day. For snow events that develop through the workday, it means that some of the crew will be working after-hours. On these occasions, the basic goal is to prepare the roadways, parking lots and facility entrances for staff and guest access.
The first efforts are typically directed toward the plowing of roadways to remove the snow cover. Once the roadways have been plowed, trucks with spreaders begin making passes across them to distribute the road salt required to help melt the snow and ice. In an average year, Operations crews typically use between 350–400 tons of roads salt for winter roadway treatments.
The treatment of facility sidewalks and paths is accomplished by a combination of snow throwers, backpack blowers, snow shovels and ice melter compound. The overnight re-freezing of wet roads or sidewalks during very cold weather is a constant concern, as road salt or ice melter applications are commonly required for up to several days after the snow has fallen.
Treating the roads might seem like a dreary, monotonous and thankless job. It certainly has that potential, especially when our area is hammered by winter storms. For Operations teams, the payback is the satisfaction and pride we feel when we hear a fellow employee say “the best roads I drove on today were the ones in the park!” It is rewarding to stop and think that our hard work and early (or long) hours provide guests the opportunity to travel safely into our parks to ride a sled, ice skate or walk a nature trail while enjoying the snow. So saying that Operations team members hate snow would be a gross misrepresentation – we can just appreciate it more after we’re done pushing, plowing and salting it!
Dan Shaw, North District Superintendent