Calgarians and cleanup crews are combining forces to clear millions of kilograms of tree debris
Dave Griffiths, director of waste and recycling services for the City of Calgary, relayed that uplifting message, also emblazoned on a city banner, while addressing the media on Sept. 13 from a debris drop-off site in Confederation Park.
The “Snowtember” event dropped, on average, 20 cm of snow. Just 24 hours before the temperature was a balmy 25 C. According to Environment Canada, the average snowfall in Calgary in September is only about 4 cm.
Griffiths praised the efforts of Calgarians who once again demonstrated their sense of community, as they did in the aftermath of the 2013 Alberta Flood last June, by clearing debris and helping neighbours do the same. But Griffiths also cautioned that the safety of both the public and city crews is paramount.
“If you see people working around the trees in your community, please help them be safe,” says Griffiths. “Allow them enough space to work safely. You can help us by moving your parked vehicles off the front streets. But please don’t be yanking down limbs that might be very heavy and dangerous.”
Griffiths says the city has assembled “jumbo teams,” made up of personnel from parks, roads, waste and recycling, water services and the fire department. These teams are working around the clock taking down the biggest and most hazardous branches that are hanging over roads, walkways and power lines.
“We have been making tremendous progress,” Griffiths says. “We’ve been working on that around the clock since the event hit us.”
The city has extended landfills hours from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. to make it easier for people to drop off small, manageable debris. Clean tree debris can be dropped off without charge. 33 tree debris drop-off locations have also been set up within the city, which are listed on the City of Calgary website. The sites will be open until at least Nov. 9, however city officials prefer people haul debris to the landfills if possible.
“So far we have collected over 2 million kilograms of leaves and branches,” Griffiths says. “It will be mulched for future use. It’s a great material for us to have and we’ll make great use of it.”
Griffiths says the cost of the cleanup is uncertain at this point, but crews are tracking their time so a clear picture of the final bill can be ascertained at a later date.
Help is Available
Sue Henry, assistant deputy chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA), says that since the snowstorm hit Calgary on Sept. 8 they have received over 31,000 calls for help. She also points out that many trees have not yet been assessed for structural integrity, so citizens should use caution when they are around trees.
“It’s incredible to see neighbours once again helping neighbours,” Henry says. “We’re reminded of what we saw during the flood with the tremendous effort and we’re very proud to be in a city that steps up and pulls together to do this.”
Henry advised Calgarians involved in the cleanup to wear protective equipment and to avoid tasks that exceed one’s skills or physical abilities.
“If you’re a senior or you’re physically unable to deal with the debris that is on your property, please call 311,” Henry says. “You are not alone and the city will respond and help you.”
Henry says the cleanup is an ongoing effort and she is unable to predict how long it will take to complete. She notes that some areas of the city were hit harder than others, especially those with older, more mature trees.
Citizens Step Up
Clive Smith, a resident of Highland Park, was one of many Calgarians who dropped off debris at the Confederation Park depot on Saturday Sept. 13. Smith spent the morning pulling down small branches and cutting them up with a hand saw, along with his daughter.
“It’s our workout for today,” Smith said.
Don Gerts and Tim Michayluk, residents of Cambrian Heights, banded togetherwith other neighbours to clear debris from the alley behind their homes. Gerts says they were able to combine resources to tackle the job.
“We have a splitter, chainsaw, lumber saw, pole saw and a wood chipper, which makes the job easier,” Gerts says.
Michayluk adds, “Everyone has to pitch in. And it’s good exercise.”