Durango gives the cold shoulder to shovel shirkers

I don’t get it. We live in Durango. In the mountains. Where it snows. Every winter. So why can’t people manage to shovel their sidewalks? Or they wait several days after a storm, and then make a fruitless attempt. By that time, foot traffic has completely compacted the snow into treacherous ice. Why does winter take people by surprise? – Annoyed

Durango has a peculiar relationship with snow. When it falls in the mountains, there’s much rejoicing and folks pay a lot of money to play in the white fluff.

Yet when snow falls on one’s sidewalk, that fun-filled substance becomes an unbearable burden.

In the backcountry, a shovel is an essential tool. Every responsible person who skis “off-piste” has a shovel.

But here in town, a shovel seems optional. Some irresponsible people are “piste-off“ that they should own one.

A lot could do with Durango’s rental rate. About half of Durangoans rent their abode, according to the latest U.S. Census data.

Is shoveling the landlord’s responsibility? Nope.

The Durango City Code has the cold, hard facts on snow and ice.

“It shall be the duty of the owner, tenant and occupant of any premises abutting or adjoining any public sidewalk to remove all snow and ice from such sidewalk,” reads Section 21-36.

If you don’t take care of the sidewalk, the city will take care of it for you. It will hire snow shovelers, then bill you for their work and tack on 25 bucks.

Another possibility is that a person slips and falls on your unmaintained sidewalk. When the victim of your negligence hires a personal-injury attorney, you won’t have a snowball’s chance.

But it’s not predominately a dutiful homeowner/slacker renter thing, points out our friend Shane Roukema, one of the city’s code-enforcement officers.

“We have nonshoveling problems everywhere. Renters. Owners. Businesses. You name it,” he lamented after last week’s storm.

“I don’t know what people are thinking,” he mused. “They must believe some friendly elf comes along and clears the sidewalk.”

Someone does come all right. But it’s not an elf. It’s Shane. Or another code officer.

They don’t have pointy ears and a shovel. What they do have is a pointy writing instrument and a citation book.

The holiday timing of the last two storms had a lot to do with lackluster shoveling rates, Shane pointed out. Many folks were out of town visiting friends and family.

What really slays Shane is “abandoned” vehicles on the street.

“After it snows, some people find their car plowed in. So they just leave it there and don’t do anything,” he said.

“They don’t brush the snow off the hood or roof and it sits there for days. After a while, someone reports it, so we go out and ‘green tag’ it,” he said. Owners have 24 hours to move it or the vehicle is towed.

“Most times, the owner calls up and yells at us. ‘It’s MY car and it’s NOT abandoned!’ they scream. But how are we to know? It hasn’t moved in a week. It’s covered in snow. No one is taking care of it. That’s pretty much the definition of abandoned.”

So let’s start off the new year with a clean sweep, starting with the sidewalks and your parked car.

If you’re elderly and need help, call La Plata County Senior Services at 382-6429 for assistance.

If you don’t have a shovel, betcha your neighbor would be more than happy to share.

Or hire the neighborhood kids, who need to get outside more often and could use odd jobs.

And if you don’t want to deal with sidewalks, move to the Animas City neighborhood where there are none, and the cantankerous and libertarian residents, including Mrs. Action Line, aim to keep it that way, thank you very much.

Email questions to “mailto:actionline@durangoherald.comactionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you wash your car this week to ensure we get more snow.