Natick Raises the Bar

Pumpkin Pine Road
Pumpkin Pine Road
Recently I've been working on a simple project: how to get sidewalks shoveled (or cleared) in front of houses in my neighborhood.  Now there are residential sections in Natick with no sidewalks.  But it seems to me that where they do exist, we ought to be able to "fire up" residents about clearing them off after snow storms.  Sadly in my neighborhood (West Natick) up to 90% of the sidewalks are not cleared. Which brings me to the opportunity to "connect."
By simply asking our neighbors if they need help shoveling (or snow blowing) a sidewalk or front stoop, we could get to know each other a little better. We might find out who has a snowblower, who is unable to shovel, who might need a ride to the store for groceries or medication, or raking leaves and other tasks.  I'm not suggesting the need for more information or "nosing" into people's private lives.  Apparently the pace and structure of our modern world works against us here.  
After the last couple of storms, I tried an experiment.  There are 21 homes on my street, four of which (including mine) whose sidewalks are cleared regularly.  Of those four, we all have snow blowers (which makes it much easier).  I ran mine up and down the street clearing the remaining sidewalks.  Only took about 45 minutes (of course it was a light snowfall only about 4 - 5 inches).  A dear friend (and former colleague, Conrad Gees) reports  that along his street (Park Ave), each neighbor with a snow blower does an extra house or two.  I guess the entire street has clear sidewalks.  Sounds like a good approach.  
In my family we've debated this issue.  Some argue that I'm making too big a deal about something that's been going on for years; nobody has been hit by a plow or car.  We're only talking 12 - 14 weeks of the year.  And it's not likely going to change.  Which may be true. 
On the other hand, I've observed how many people actually walk around my neighborhood even in the grip of winter.  People walking their dogs, people jogging or walking for exercise, kids walking to school, people walking to and from the commuter rail, people walking to and from church and temple....practices we should encourage.  Right?
Why take the risk?  If there are good sidewalks, people shouldn't have to walk in the street after storms.  And why not get to know our neighbors a little better and help each other out.  Hence my new motto: "Natick Raises the Bar. Let's Connect Neighbors." --Pat

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Elaine Mosgofian January 26, 2014 at 11:57 PM
We are responsible for the sidewalks in front of our homes. It's a law here in Natick. If someone gets hurt because you did not clear the walk walk, you are legally liable.
techmark.paul January 27, 2014 at 03:45 PM
Actually, it's not a law in Natick to clear one's sidewalk, and this has caused a lot of debate at Town Meeting and elsewhere. What makes the issue challenging is the law, as written, does NOT hold property owner liable for a pedestrian's injury if traversing on the sidewalk where the snow was naturally fallen and not disturbed. Once it's been cleared (or otherwise disturbed from its natural landing place), THEN the property owner becomes liable for prospective injuries, etc. sustained by a pedestrian on that stretch of sidewalk. So, if you interpret the letter of the law strictly, then there's actually a disincentive to clear one's sidewalk (from a purely legal perspective). However, having grown up in a suburban community much like Natick, I can't fathom leaving the snow there and to let pedestrians navigate an uncleared sidewalk. I agree with Mr. Conaway's sentiment here - let's help our neighbors and the pedestrians we are trying to support (while keeping vehicular traffic off the streets); it feels like we've lost all sense of "right" and community because of laziness, ignorance, or the fear of the potential negative legal consequences of our good intentions. I admit the issue is more complicated b/c of these legal implications; but, IMO there's nothing wrong with neighborhoods coming together to "do the right thing."


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