Jamaica Plain and the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) are about to receive a new park at the southern end of the Southwest Corridor to take care of. The new Casey Arborway will connect Franklin Park, the Arboretum and nearby neighborhoods to this already bustling bike, walking and running route and most likely increase its use, but as of yet little has been done to guarantee that the DCR will have the extra capacity needed to maintain it.
At particular issue is snow removal. People who live in JP know well that the Southwest Corridor is used year-round by bike commuters, pedestrians and dog-walkers, and that when the corridor is blocked by snow and ice, it can impede people’s daily routines significantly. When this happens, it is often because the Southwest Corridor is not considered “high” priority for snow removal for DCR, and as such, plows don’t reach it until later in the day when the snow has been trampled by hundreds of commuters. The snow is harder to clear and becomes ice. It snows again and the problem is compounded. DCR does a great job, but heavy winters can make it a challenging venture.
It is clear that MassDOT, the future builder of the new Casey Arborway, cannot add or pay for snow removal employees at the DCR—that responsibility falls to our state legislators at budget time. But what the department can do within the parameters of this project is increase the DCR’s capacity for snow clearance by purchasing superior equipment to get the job done faster with the same number of employees. In particular, Bombardier or other brands of “tracked” snowplows can power through snow three times as fast as regular trucks or Bobcat tractors.
Only with this improvement can the new Arborway’s bike and pedestrian paths, and perhaps the Southwest Corridor as well, move toward becoming “high” priority for snow clearance at the DCR.
Snow- and ice-free paths will allow pedestrians and cyclists to continue to be active year round, keeping Jamaica Plain vibrant, fun and connected, even during our fiercest New England winters.