Development in Winter Park causes town to rethink snow storage
When Winter Park Resort opened at the beginning of the month thanks to over 40 inches of snow in October, the town of Winter Park “unleashed the beast” that is its Public Works Department’s winter operations.
Though November has been relatively snow-free in Grand County, the town is preparing for its average of 300 inches of snowfall through its annual planning process. However, the process is slightly different this year as the town looks into new snow management options.
“I call it unleashing the beast because it’s what we do entirely in the winter is snow plow operations, and it’s very important to the community and the resort,” said Gerry Vernon, director of public works.
Currently, the town stores snow at three sites, which it has done for the past several years. This year, however, fewer storage spaces are available due to recent developments.
Town Manager Keith Riesberg said one site not available for storage this year is near the new Roam Development. While Winter Park requires all new developments to plan for their own snow storage, the town is concerned about running out of storage space.
“The owner of (one) property is looking to sell it, which means it could be developed in the future, and the town’s property … we’re looking to put affordable housing on that site,” Riesberg said. “So we’re trying to identify a management plan for the snow that allows us to keep our downtown cleared without using those three properties.”
Trying to be proactive, the town is budgeting $270,000 for a snowmelt system in 2020. The snowmelt system is a trailer-like unit in which snow is dumped into a melting pan that uses hot water to melt the snow.
Vernon said a melting system would make snow management much more efficient because the town would have to haul significantly less snow.
“(A snowmelt system) will be a huge asset, especially as we lose more snow storage sites,” Vernon said. “We’re looking at where’s going to be the prime spot to put it that is most centrally located.”
To figure out exactly how the snowmelt system could benefit the town, Vernon has begun keeping track of the hours each piece of equipment is used this season, as well as the amount of salt and sand put on the roads, and the daily snowfall totals.
Already, the public works department has recorded over 200 hours of plowing in October.
While Vernon isn’t sure tracking that information will reveal any weather trends, he’s hoping it will at least help the town better prepare in future years.
“This is going to be an evolving process as Winter Park continues to grow. We’re going to have to change and adapt and this is a pretty significant adaptation,” Vernon said. “We’re looking forward to adapting, changing and implementing new procedures to make things easier on ourselves and making ourselves more efficient.”
Another new system for inputting work orders is up and running for the department, so residents can submit concerns about a downed stop sign or pothole directly to public works crews and the department can track what issues have been handled.
Typically, the town’s winter operations plan, which is solely snow management, prioritizes arterial streets with high traffic, emergency accessibility and population, such as Vasquez Road, Kings Crossing and Winter Park Drive.
Following those streets, collector streets, like Lions Gate Drive, are plowed and then finally residential streets and cul-de-sacs.
“Our goal is to ensure the sidewalks are clear for our visitors to walk and drive in our downtown and enjoy their time in Winter Park,” Riesberg said. “(Snow storage) is not an issue we have to resolve immediately, but looking down the road as these sites move toward development, the town needs different options for approaching this challenge, so I appreciate we’re taking a proactive approach.”
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