From My Perspective – Snow Removal and Mosquitoes

I really like Edmonton for the most part. It’s a great place to live. Two things, however, completely spoil the experience — snow removal and mosquitoes. As one of Canada’s northernmost cities, we get our fair share of snow, and our winters seem much longer than normal. We often joke that we only have two seasons — winter and construction — since much of the short summer is spent fixing the damage winter conditions have wrought on our roads. But that’s nothing compared to what we endure while the snow is actually still on the ground. Edmonton’s city council has decided that residential street snow removal is a luxury we cannot afford, so the policy has always been to only plow the streets when they become impassable for emergency vehicles. This means that we ordinary folk must suffer through months of snow-clogged side streets, getting stuck regularly, unable to navigate from our homes to the main street.

After a few freeze/melt/snow/freeze cycles, residential roads soon become a succession of natural speed bumps, rows of solid ice and snow surrounding the deep tire grooves left by those few vehicles that are successful in escaping this wintry prison. SUV’s, monster trucks and 4-wheel drives can manage reasonably well, but everyone else is out of luck. The horrible condition of the roads tears out undercarriages, wears out shocks and damages tires — plus there is the ever-present danger that you will bounce out of a rut and smash into a snow-covered parked car (as happened to my daughter’s vehicle several months ago). The city’s excuse that it is too expensive seems less logical when you start adding up the cost of repairs to vehicles damaged by road conditions.

On top of that, anyone who attempts to walk and cross the roads on foot must meet a challenge worthy of a seasoned mountain climber. Walkers old and young slip and fall on the icy ruts, often with serious and crippling results. Many elderly people become completely housebound for much of the long winter, afraid to venture out and risk a fall. A broken hip, particularly when it happens to a senior citizen, has dire consequences for both the individual and the health care system, often precipitating permanent disability. So where is the logic in trying to save money by refusing to plow our residential streets? I don’t get it.

This kind of blind, backward thinking happens in summer too. It truly does seem that our summers are only a few months long, since we often have snow right into May and even June. One year I got brave and planted my garden early, putting my tomato plants in at the end of May with the rest of the garden. Two days later we were hit with a heavy snowfall that killed off all my delicate little plants! I learned my lesson and avoid planting anything much until the beginning of June.

Given the short summers we enjoy here in Edmonton, it would be nice if we could eke out maximum pleasure from the long summer evenings, enjoying our backyard, gardening, having a barbeque, walking or biking. However, here in Edmonton we have a powerful incentive to remain indoors during the summer — mosquitoes! The plague has already begun in May, and it continues right through to late fall. The experts tell us this represents several life cycles of mosquitoes, and we are treated to different varieties, some of which supposedly do not bite. I’ve never met that kind. The biting ones, however, are plentiful.

In Edmonton, many beautiful summer evenings are spoiled because it is absolutely impossible to sit outside without being devoured by these rabid little black creatures. You can spray yourself with bug spray (yuck!), burn mosquito coils and citronella candles, or light smudges, but the persistent creatures are impossible to escape from. The latest worry, of course, is West Nile Virus, a deadly disease spread by mosquitoes. The best advice the health professionals give us is to protect ourselves is “stay indoors” and “cover up completely when outdoors.” What a way to spend our few lovely, hot summer months!

For some reason, in spite of our advanced technology, spraying efforts are quite ineffective at controlling the mosquito population. There is always some excuse — the weather is too wet to spray, the weather is too hot to spray, mosquitoes like rain, mosquitoes like dry… the bottom line is that every year they make an effort, but every year the mosquitoes win out.

At least there has been some attempt at reducing the pest population, and at least we are getting minimal relief. However, given the profound wisdom of Edmonton city council regarding snow removal, I guess I should not have been surprised at the latest attempt to spoil quality of life in this city. Apparently our summer budget needs to be cut — so the city has decided that mosquito spraying is one of those non-essentials that has to go! Along with fewer plants on public property and less-frequent watering, the city has announced that mosquito spraying will be reduced by 10 percent. So the city will save money while its citizens are tortured by even more mosquitos than usual. Mothers will keep their children inside, fearful of the virus, and those precious evening hours of summer will be cut even shorter unless we want to be covered in itchy red welts.

Oh well, I guess I can put on my long johns and gloves, wrap my face in a scarf, and go sit outside to wait for winter!

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