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Pendleton’s policy on snow-covered roads: Let it stay

Downtown businesses open, with mixed feelings about no-plow policy
Phil Wright

East Oregonian

Published on December 28, 2017 8:14PM

Pedestrians and vehicles navigate snow-covered roads on Thursday in downtown Pendleton.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Pedestrians and vehicles navigate snow-covered roads on Thursday in downtown Pendleton.

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Traffic negotiates a snow-covered Main Street on Thursday in downtown Pendleton.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Traffic negotiates a snow-covered Main Street on Thursday in downtown Pendleton.

Buy this photo

Downtown Pendleton businesses weathering this winter’s snow and ice differ on whether the city should have a snow plow.

The sales crew at the Hamley Western Store, 30 S.E. Court Ave., said Thursday they would like to see the city cleared streets of snow that fell more than 36 hours prior. Jessica Lapp and Rachelle Erb said they have been walking to the store for their shift, and even traveling on foot has been treacherous.

“I put on trail spikes just to get to work,” Lapp said.

Store manager Penny French lives outside Adams, and said the worst driving of her trip to work was not on the long stretch of Highway 11, but the city streets she had to navigate in Pendleton.

Pendleton Public Works Director Bob Patterson said the city has plows for the runways at the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport because those are a requirement of the Federal Aviation Administration. Rather than remove snow, the city drops gravel on its roads, especially at intersections and on inclines.

Erb said that is little help. Vehicles press the gravel down, she said, and soon enough the snow and ice cover it and the traction is gone.

But Patterson said the city is looking at getting a plow if the winters continue to deliver loads of snow and worse on a more frequent basis. But a plow would mean residents could not park on streets, would have to deal with berms and digging out vehicles.

The snow plow discussion in City Hall is only at the start, Patterson said, and ultimately could come down to city council’s decision.

The trio at Hamley’s said clearing snow from roads also would make it easier for tourists to get around, such as the Australians and New Zealanders who came into the store on Wednesday. Lapp and Erb said the travel group stated they had never seen winter like this, and they did not have the right footwear to explore anywhere else in town.

Still, the weather has upsides, they said, such as customers who decided to do their Christmas shopping in town rather than brave the roads to the Tri-Cities or Walla Walla. And French said having snow on Christmas day brightened attitudes and brought smiles.

Molly Turner, the executive director of the Pendleton Downtown Association, said businesses reported strong sales during the holiday stroll on Dec. 9, but she hasn’t heard much yet about how the snowy roads have affected post-Christmas sales.

Betty Adair works behind the bar at the Rainbow Café, 209 S. Main St., and said the after-breakfast crowd of four tables was about average for the middle of the week, in spite of the snow. Business slows down the first day or two after a winter storm hits, she said, but then people return to routines and the locals make it back to the bar and restaurant.

However, freezing rain and black ice change the situation, she said. The Rainbow shut down one day during the January winter storm that sealed much of the area under ice. Nothing that bad has happened this winter, so far.

Adair has worked at the Rainbow for 36 years and said she remembers when the city plowed the snow. Crews would pile the berm down the center of Main Street, she said, and that was a hassle. She also said it did not make sense to her for the city to own snow removal equipment for use just a few days a year — if that.

“I’d rather see them spend the money on fixing up the roads and potholes,” she said.

Roughly a dozen children and adults laughed, scurried and played Thursday morning at the Children’s Museum of Eastern Oregon, 400 S. Main St.

Joanna Engle, executive director of the hands-on museum since February, said it was difficult to judge how much of a role the weather played into attendance.

Local grandparents with children have been a common sight this winter, she said, and the museum draws visitors on long road trips, providing a fun place for children and parents to let out some energy before having to get back in the car.

The museum’s store did well with Christmas sales, Engle added, and some of those were to adults who were seeking educational toys for themselves.

She also said she has thought some about the benefit of a city snow plow. She grew up in La Grande, she said, and before coming to Pendleton for the museum job spent 40 years in the Willamette Valley.

This winter weather that landed on Pendleton would have stopped everything there, she said. But over here, people find a way to get around.

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Contact Phil Wright at pwright@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0833.



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