Street crews work in reverse

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— A dedicated crew that spends most of the winter removing snow from city streets got up extra early this morning to haul 2,000 cubic yards of the white stuff onto Lincoln Avenue. Before the day is out, they'll push the snow off the street onto the curb, only to return at 2 o'clock Sunday morning to spread it over the street once more.

This weekend's Winter Carnival street events couldn't occur unless the city street crews, working with a fleet of commercial snow haulers hustled snow from the Romick Rodeo Arena, up Fifth Street, and spread it 6 to 10 inches deep for most of the length of Lincoln Avenue.

Without the blanket of clean snow there would be no skijoring events and no skiing high school band. One of the oldest carnival traditions, the Diamond Hitch Parade on Sunday, just wouldn't have the same style on asphalt.

It might seem like an insult to ask city snow removal crews to haul snow back onto the street, but streets superintendent Doug Marsh said Friday his employees don't mind a bit.

"It's just part of the job," Marsh said. "Our guys are excited about the event." The crew is supervised by assistant superintendent Ron Berig.

For many years, the snow spread on Lincoln for the street events came from a monstrous pile on Twentymile Road. The original source of that snow is city streets and resort parking lots.

Now, Marsh said, the city has a source of cleaner snow.

"People complained the old snow had too much scoria (gravel) and mud in it," Marsh explained. Instead, city crews now haul man-made snow that was blown into the nordic combined World Cup stadium at Howelsen by city parks superintendent Jeff Nelson's crews.

Not only is that snow cleaner for the street events, it's far nicer for the snow sculptures erected by high school art students up and down Lincoln. Using snow from the World Cup has the added benefit of allowing the rodeo arena to dry up earlier in the spring, Marsh said. It also saves on transportation costs, because the rodeo arena is just a block away from Lincoln.

Getting the job done this morning required three of the city's front-end loaders, a couple of road graders, the city's own dump truck and eight other private dump trucks.

It takes 2,000 cubic yards of snow to cover Lincoln Avenue to the proscribed depth between Fifth and 11th streets, Nelson said. He calculates each dump truck will have to make between 12 and 15 trips to haul enough snow. That comes out to as many as 135 total trips.

After the snow has been dumped on Lincoln, a road grader spreads it as evenly as possible. Later it's buffed by a snowcat normally used for grooming the ski slopes at Howelsen.

The members of Berig's city crew include Gerald Brenner, David VanWinkle, Steve Green, Brian Rogers, Thayne Parr, John Doubek, Kirby Blackman and Dale Appel.

Ironically, the only thing that could interfere with the city snow removal crew's efforts to spread snow back out over Lincoln Avenue again tonight is a snowstorm. That would mean the crew members, the same guys who operate the city snowplows, would have to hustle to get their Winter Carnival chores done in order to get busy on snow removal elsewhere in the city.

Marsh said it's easy to take for granted the job the snowplow operators do. "Everybody's sleeping when they go to work I'm sleeping when they work."

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