“Jim Holt picked his way through piles of snow and rivers of slush and across sheets of ice. A piece of paper fluttered in his hand.
Holt, 62, is one of nearly two dozen inspectors who fanned out across Denver on Thursday in the wake of the “bomb cyclone” snowstorm. Their task was to convince the populace to shovel the city’s public sidewalks. And they’re getting more serious about it this year.
That morning, Holt volunteered for notorious Colorado Boulevard, the city’s worst spot for icy sidewalk danger, he said. He’d already left warnings at two mattress stores and a health care clinic by noon, and he wanted to deliver another to Taco Bell.
“This, they made an attempt,” Holt said, skirting around a patch of ice. “But when I see hardened ice that’s a foot thick or 6 inches thick, that’s crazy.”
In Denver and most neighboring cities, property owners must maintain the sidewalks alongside their property — and the city is cranking up the inspections this year.
Since October, city staffers have logged more than 4,000 snow-and-ice inspections. That’s nearly triple the number for all of the last season, a result of both heavier snowfall and a streamlined inspection process.
“So, your sidewalk’s not been cleaned,” he said gently. The notice gave four hours to clear the sidewalk. For residences, it’s 24 hours.
The employee’s reaction: blank confusion.
“So, is the city of Denver supposed to clean those sidewalks?” she asked.
Fair question. Sidewalks are for public use, but the law in Denver — and many other cities — says the adjoining property owners are responsible for keeping them clear. With thousands of miles of sidewalks, according to Denver officials, citizen shoveling is the only practical way to keep them accessible.
While the Colorado sunshine clears most sidewalks, snow and ice can stick around for weeks on shady north-side walkways.
“I don’t want to be in there as enforcement. I just want it to get clean,” said Holt, a senior city inspector who has a broad range of other duties, as he returned to the snowy sidewalk.”
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Kenney, Andrew. Denver Post 15 March 2019.