With the heavy snowfall this winter, winter driving conditions have been a hot topic for many. Road conditions continue to provide the biggest challenge for getting in and out of town, and while snow is being removed, more continues to fall.
For those in Field, snow removal has become an uphill battle for the daily life of those who live there.
“Our concern is access to the community,” said Kathryn Cameron, president of the Field Recreation Advisory Association. “Service vehicles like the post office truck or the food service trucks that come in, they need to get around town too. We want to be able to get in and out of our town. This is high elevation life and high elevation weather, so it’s extremely challenging.”
Field has been struggling with snow removal all winter, with snow piles as high as almost 10 feet accumulating across town, according to Karla Gaffney, a resident in Field.
In fact, just a few weeks ago, the food service truck was not able to complete its route, getting stuck on a corner mid-route. It’s a problem that has been plaguing the small community for decades, says Gaffney.
“People can’t get out of their driveways because the snow is too thick,” said Gaffney. “The plows tend to come in off the highway and come in on the one way street and out the other one way street just to get people in and out of town. You can’t get anywhere else until we start emailing and calling them. The snow piles are encroaching into the driving lane, of which there’s only one on a two lane road right now.”
Field is located within the confines of Yoho National Park, which means that Parks Canada handles the snow removal.
Cameron knows this, and understands that Field is low on the priority list for Parks Canada, who need to clear the roads to the ski hills and the Trans-Canada Highway first. She believes that the true problem lies in the understaffing and the underfunding of the snow removal unit stationed out of Lake Louise for the national park.
“We really understand that Parks Canada has a big responsibility, and the townsite of Field is low on the list of priorities,” said Cameron. “We’d love to be a higher priority, but we’re not. A big shout out to the staff for doing what they can with what they have.”
According to Cameron, the unit for snow removal for Field is about the same size as the one that clears the Rogers Pass, which is a fraction of the size of the area that the Yoho unit has to cover.
Parks Canada confirmed that there are nearly the same number of people on staff for both units, with 20 operators serving Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks, and 22 based out of Lake Louise, which serves Field. The statement explains that this is because the Rogers Pass generally receives more snow and is the site of the world’s largest avalanche control program.
Parks Canada does their best, but clearing the highways is a priority. According to Alex Kolesch, a representative from Parks Canada who is the townsite manager for Field, it’s hard not to empathize with the people who live there.
“As a former resident, I empathize with those challenges and want to assure the residents that we hear their concerns,” said Kolesch in an emailed statement. “Parks Canada is committed to serving the village of Field while ensuring the safety of visitors and residents throughout Yoho National Park.”
Parks Canada regularly evaluates their policies to ensure their effectiveness and identify areas for improvement to provide the best service they can. However, service is determined by the highest volume areas for traffic, of which Field is not.
Often, this means that the plowing of secondary routes, such as Field, occurs up to 18 hours after the end of an average snowfall.
Decades ago, this wasn’t a problem for the small village, as they had their own privately owned unit that was responsible for snow clearing beyond the jurisdiction of Parks Canada. Since the closure of the Boulder Creek Compound nearly 20 years ago, snow clearing has become an issue.
“When we had our own highway crew, the roads were phenomenal,” said Cameron. “Parks Canada, to their credit has been working hard. I think there would be far fewer issues if there was actually more than one garage for the service vehicles as well.”
For now, residents of Field will have to continue to try their best to navigate the harsh road conditions. Vehicles with all-wheel drive and high clearance can get around town just fine, but cars or anything with two-wheel drive continue to get stuck in the snow drifts.