Winter Weather Prep: How Open Space Keeps Columbia Safe

December 14, 2021

The Open Space team is making their list and checking it twice to make sure CA’s facilities and pathways are ready for any wintry mix in the forecast.

“As a community partner, we take pride in preparing for inclement weather, ensuring efficient snow removal and minimizing safety concerns and disruptions,” says CA Open Space Operations Manager Nick Mooneyhan.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the intensive preparations underway…

Preparing for winter weather

Keeping Columbia safe in the snow is a big job, which is why the Open Space Operations, Capital Improvements, Landscape Services and Golf Maintenance divisions all join forces in this strategic effort.

The equipment preparation takes place beginning in the fall. CA deploys a fleet of 10 trucks for snow removal, 20 smaller pieces of equipment to clear snow off pathways and countless shovels and snowblowers for tighter areas.

To keep a close eye on the forecast, the Open Space team uses several resources. When inclement weather is anticipated, the teams begin applying de-icer (salt) to CA facilities, sidewalks, downtown pathways and lake paths, as well as the remainder of the pathway system.

As we all know, the elements can be unpredictable — which is why our teams remain flexible, monitoring conditions in their assigned priority area throughout the day. They will plow and re-treat as necessary, which means treating the sidewalks, pathways and parking lots with de-icer for the second time and throughout the day.

“It’s fairly astonishing to see how much effort is involved to care for the community on snow days. During major blizzards, there’s a high level of collaboration between CA and the Howard County government, and the public school system also relies on information from us. During a severe weather event, there may be over 50 team members working outside to protect Columbia’s residents,” says Mooneyhan.

“During a severe weather event, there may be over 50 team members working outside to protect Columbia’s residents.” – Nick Mooneyhan, CA Open Space Operations Manager

Protect yourself from the elements

As a reminder — since it’s been so long that we’ve had real snow in Columbia — snow salt can have serious side effects for dogs, so it’s best to steer clear of salt-treated areas with your pooch. The salt can irritate your dog’s paws and cause vomiting or digestive issues if ingested.

It’s just as important to keep yourself safe, so remember to wear shoes with good traction (rubber soles are a dependable option). It’s also wise to keep both hands free for balance, rather than keeping them in your pockets.

Finally, it’s important to note that any product you apply to your steps or driveway ends up washing into the stormwater system and into one of Columbia’s lakes or streams. That’s why it’s essential to stay away from using any fertilizer or products containing nitrogen to melt ice. Below, CA Watershed Manager John McCoy shares the products he recommends and tips for proper usage.

Here’s to safe and peaceful snow days!

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