GR launches surgical strike against snowbanks

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The neighbors asked for it, and by 11 a.m. Tuesday, snow plows had cleared paths where for weeks there had been none along four streets in the East Hills area of Grand Rapids.

Portions of Diamond Avenue and Wealthy, Cherry and Fairmount streets SE were targets of the efforts.

The city is asking residents not to park on these East Hills area streets between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Tuesday.
The city is asking residents not to park on these East Hills area streets between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Tuesday.

“It’s nice to have the streets back. Very nice,” said Davie Huiser as he pushed his snow thrower along a Diamond Avenue sidewalk. “Great idea. Great idea. An inconvenience for a little while, but then it gets done.”

The snow had to go somewhere. That somewhere was in the driveways and sidewalks.

That’s where Huiser and his snow plow brigade came in. Huiser owns several homes along Diamond and he was helping his neighbors dig out.

Just across the street, nursing school students Elliot Parrish and Jen Sall worked to unclog their driveway of the boulders of snow left by the plows.

“We just had our driveway finally cleared out and then they come through this morning and we’re like, again? But it was nice now that we can park over there,” Sall said.

The months of snow have narrowed the streets.

“It was bad. Really bad. And when there’s a two-way street, it was not two-way anymore. You had to wait for people to come through,” Sall said.

Drive down many of the more narrow ones in the center city, and you’ll see vehicle after vehicle missing a sideview mirror.

“You ought to be in the mirror business right now. There’s a lot of cars without mirrors,” Huiser said.

The Tuesday morning plow was a collaborative effort between the East Hills Council of Neighborhoods and the City of Grand Rapids. The council put out the word Monday night for residents to move their vehicles off the street by 8 a.m. The city provided the plows.

It sounds like the best solution to a problem many Grand Rapids neighborhoods are dealing with.

“There’s clearly a need to on several dozens streets in the city that have become so narrow we can’t get a fire truck down them,” City Manager Greg Sundstrom said.

But Sundstrom said the move is a surgical strike.

While the city may try the approach in a few more neighborhoods, Sundstrom said it’s not a viable solution for the entire city. It’s all about the numbers: Grand Rapids has 600 miles of streets. Sundstrom says crews could probably get to a mile or two of streets each day.

And that’s if it’s not snowing.

“So when it’s snowing, all of those same folks are snow plowing. So obviously, the snow will be melted before we can possibly get to every street in the city,” said Sundstrom, who added Tuesday’s effort went well.

He said it will be up to other neighborhood groups to decide if they want to try the approach.

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