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Feedback sought on Whitehorse snow clearing

An online public survey launched July 20 and will conclude Aug. 19.
City crews work to clear snow off Pelly Road in Riverdale Feb. 14. A review of the city’s snow and ice control policy is underway. (Yukon News file)

The perfect storm of record snowfalls and increased development has the City of Whitehorse considering changes to snow removal.

As the city continues reviewing its snow and ice program, officials are seeking public feedback. Stakeholder engagement is happening throughout July and an online public survey launched July 20 will conclude Aug. 19.

The survey is available through Engage Whitehorse and asks participants about how they travel throughout the city, their level of satisfaction with snow clearing on roads, active transportation routes, potential enforcement to deal with obstacles on roadways and their own ideas on dealing with snow.

Tracy Allen, the city’s director of operations, updated Whitehorse city council at its July 18 meeting on the review underway, highlighting plans to present a full report in September detailing potential options and costs.

Among improvements being contemplated are an increased fleet; integrating more innovative snow removal methods; making greater use of contractors during extreme weather events; improved public communications; increases to permit fees for private contractors dumping snow at city sites; prioritizing active transportation routes; and updating planning and design requirements to better factor in heavy snowfalls.

As Allen explained in her report, record snowfalls and more roads and trails in the city are impacting the system. A total of 10 km of roadway and sidewalk have been added to the city since 2015 along with five kilometers of trails as development in the Whistle Bend neighbourhood has ramped up. It’s anticipated that will only increase as more phases of the neighbourhood are built.

Snowfall levels are also taking a toll with the 2021/2022 season seeing more than 265 cm over the course of the winter compared to the average historical snowfall of 143 cm.

As Coun. Dan Boyd noted during council discussion, the city’s policies and programs are struggling to keep up with growth and the reality of climate change. Dealing with that will mean changing the way the city deals with snow clearing, he said.

“It will cost more money, that’s for sure,” Boyd said, going on to highlight other issues that need to be dealt with, ranging from vehicles on city streets to the amount of snow coming into city snow dumping sites.

In her report, Allen pointed out that despite increased snowfall and population growth, there haven’t been any major changes to the overall snow and ice policy in years.

Despite increased snowfalls each year since 2018, the policy has not been updated. There have also not been any major additions to the city’s fleet of equipment for snow clearing.

“Population growth, demographic change, and climate change have all affected the city’s snow and ice control operations,” she said. “Further, the city has not reviewed its (snow and ice control policy) from an overall active transportation perspective. There has been an increased demand in providing consistently maintained winter active transportation routes within the City of Whitehorse over the past few years.”

Along with the public engagement now underway, Allen also pointed to a list of challenges being faced based on past public comments, preliminary stakeholder discussions and a look at other municipalities.

Those challenges include fleet and resource constraints to deal with current snowfalls, consistency and predictability of clearing, vehicles parked on roads set for clearing, snow being moved from private property onto roads, inadequate enforcement mechanisms under the city’s maintenance bylaw, management of the city’s snow site on Robert Service Way, public communications and awareness and changes in the weather.

Moving forward, Allen said the input period will be ongoing into August, along with plans to refine possibilities and costs for snow and ice control based on the feedback received.

As Mayor Laura Cabott commented, the feedback will give the city an idea if it is “on track” with some of the concepts to be considered.

The formal report will come forward in September for council’s consideration.

A multi-year approach is anticipated to be taken on any changes put in place.

“Improvements will be achieved through a variety of changes as resources permit,” Allen said. “While some adjustments will be made in time for the 2022 - 2023 season, the full impact of all the changes will be implemented over the next few years.”

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
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