Steamboat Springs Interim Steamboat Springs Postmaster Mike Evans is urging residents who have their mail delivered to a cluster box to pitch in and shovel out.
Steamboat's neighborhoods have seen some of the highest snow totals in 99 years thus far this winter. In some instances, where shared neighborhood mailboxes haven't been kept clear of snow by postal patrons, mail has not been delivered.
"People are calling and wondering where their mail is," Evans said. "If (the contract mail carrier) can't open the cluster box because of snow or because his safety is jeopardized, he is instructed to bring the mail back."
Evans arrived in Steamboat three weeks ago in the midst of one of the heaviest December snowfalls on record. Weather watcher Art Judson said a weather station between downtown and the ski mountain recorded 74.2 inches of snow last month. That represents the fourth highest total in 99 years.
The city of Steamboat Springs and the U.S. Postal Service collaborated in the late 1990s to begin installing cluster boxes, each one able to serve 16 households. Today there are more than 400 cluster boxes, many close to condo and townhouse projects, scattered across the city.
The city's Public Works Department confirms that it has always been the shared responsibility of the people receiving their mail at the cluster boxes to keep them free from plowed snow.
"The program was instituted under the assumption that it was the responsibility of the citizens to make the cluster boxes accessible," said Jim Weber of the Public Works Department.
He added that snowplow operators try to get as close to the cluster boxes as they safely can, but they aren't set up to remove the snow blocking the boxes. Weber said the location of each cluster box in relation to the street is unique and presents its own challenges for plow operators.
Evans said he has heard from postal patrons whose individual mailboxes are above the snow line, and they are especially concerned when their mail hasn't been delivered.
"I don't think they realize the entire unit opens as one piece," Evans said.
Evans, who came here from Pine, said although the cluster boxes could accommodate more households, about 1,500 addresses in Steamboat get their mail in cluster boxes.
"The benefits to the community are huge on multiple levels," Weber said.
In addition to reducing traffic congestion surrounding the Fish Creek at Sundance and downtown post offices, they make a contribution to air quality by reducing vehicle trips, he said.