Sunday, December 7, 2014

Metro Trails Snow Clearing November 26, 2014

Yeah, a little late on this report but it is necessary.  The Des Moines Metropolitan area received around 2.8 inches of snow the day before Thanksgiving.  For most people this was a working day.  For those that commute to work on bicycle they were faced with the decision to ride on uncleared trails or snow covered roads with cars and trucks driven by individuals who are traveling in snow for the first time since last winter.  Also, snow on streets gets dirty and wet quickly.  I chose the trail system.

snow event 11/26/2014

Going to work was not bad at all.  I love to ride on fresh virgin snow.  Riding home was not too bad either. The City of Clive had the Greenbelt Trail cleared of snow.  So did Windsor Heights.  Des Moines, however, dropped the ball.  No attempt to plow the Bill Riley Trail from Water Works to the dog park was made.  Now, the snow was still rideable when I made my trip home but I knew what was going to happen.  No one was going to clear in Thursday since it was a holiday.  Nobody was going to get to it on Friday, Saturday or Sunday since it the weather was forecasted to be in the 40s on Friday and Saturday.  Also, given the holiday, who would be on the trail?  Everybody.  And when everybody uses the trails and leaves tracks--footprints, tire tracks and dog tracks the snow will freeze leaving the tracks as evidence of use.  This ice is very dangerous.

Wednesday night and Thursday the temperatures dropped and what was wet and malleable became dry and hard.  There were at least 6 major ice spots on the aforementioned trail that were dangerous.  First there were 2 near Irish Run Horse Stables on the Bill Riley Trail that required riders to dismount or ride off the trail to avoid the ice.  Studded tires were of little use because the surface was too bumpy to ride over.  Tires wanted to bounce increasing the likelihood of crashing.  It should be noted that this was the place that Courtney Hilton crashed his fatbike on ice and broke his ankle a few years ago.

Even worse was the the stretch of the Walnut Creek Trail that parallels the soccer fields south of Pal Joey's.  The north-south stretch is hidden from the sun's love and thus formed the longest ice patch of the trail system.  Impossible to ride.  I suppose a fatbike would make it through if ridden carefully and with 4 psi in the tires but not everyone has a fatbike nor a week to ride to their destination.  Once again we had to ride on the grass and get on the road parallel the trail.

I was impressed that someone, assuming Des Moines Park&Rec, added ice to these sections.  I have never seen this happen before.  And after several days of adding ice melt to the troubled spots the trail became safe.  Thank you for correcting this oversight.

Other neglected trails were the Neal Smith Trail from Lutheran Hospital on up.  The levy was fine but going through the wooded area was bad.  The InterUrban Trail was ignored.  The area adjacent to Harding Hills Hy Vee is DANGEROUSLY NEGLECTED.  The Trestle to Trestle Trail was not plowed nor were the Johnston trails.

I wish to thank the City of Clive for brushing off the Greenbelt.  last year there were a few times when this trail was inadequately cleared and months long ice formations dotted the trail like a minefield.  By clearing it on Wednesday the trail was perfect Wednesday evening and on Monday for the commuters and runners and walkers who use this trail.  Well, the section behind the fuel storage tanks just west of Wittern Group could have used a refresh since it is exposed to the north wind and drifting.  But it was passable and the sun did clear it up by midweek.

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