Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Partial Credit


As a former state official, I understand the difficulties of running a state agency and therefore like to give credit where credit is due. This post is to award "partial credit" to the DCR, the state agency that runs the parks.

We had a big snowstorm on the weekend, but this is not unusual in New England. So you would think that the various agencies would be prepared to clear major walkways on public lands, particularly those walkways that lead to major mass transit stations. Not so. My particular T stop is Longwood, which serves thousands of people going to work at hospitals, school, and other institutions -- not to mention patients. A major passageway from the Longwood stop to the medical and academic area is a short walk through a park and across the Muddy River.

As late as yesterday, the walkway was a sheet of ice several inches thick. There had been no effort to clear it or to spread sand on it. It was treacherous.

So, today, I brought a camera to document this condition and send it along to the authorities and -- lo and behold -- the walkway has been plowed and sand laid down. The steps up the little bridge across the Muddy River likewise have been totally cleaned. The pictures above attest to this result.

So, that is the good news. The bad news is that it took so long. Partial credit awarded.

The new Commissioner of the DCR is Rick Sullivan, who used to be mayor of Westfield, MA. He is an honorable, hard-working, and competent person who understands the importance of proper and timely delivery of municipal services. Like his predecessors, though, he is hamstrung by inadequate budgets and, I am guessing, antiquated equipment. I think he is doing the best he can, but until and unless the public puts more pressure on their elected representatives for more adequate funding, the state park system will always be behind -- just as it was this week.

9 comments:

Nancy Turnbull said...

So funny you wrote about this today, Paul. As I walked to work up Longwood Avenue this am, I thought, as I often do during and after snowstorms, that it's too bad that the city can't subcontract out some of its snow removal to the hospitals. The sidewalks on Longwood Avenue are almost always immediately clear of snow and ice, a great testament to the work of dedicated hospital staff, and, I am sure, to the greater level of resources that the hosptials can devote to this work. So I thank BIDMC and the other hospitals for making my commute much easier than most.

Laurie said...

Just read an article in today's Globe about the delegation of snow removal for the city versus the DCR, and how much territory the state has to cover. Right before I clicked on your blog, I was thinking to myself that the DCR did a so-so job where I live. There are still huge pockets of snow that were never removed that are iced over and consume several parking spots on a congested inlet of a major DCR route, but our sidewalk itself is mercifully clear of ice and is thoroughly salted.

We may have no place to park, but at least when we trudge home from our far-flung parking spaces, we don't slip and slide. "Partial credit" it is!

Paul Levy said...

Here's that story: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2007/12/19/no_walk_in_the_park/

heartsaver said...

Paul,
Saludos from Corazon Hispano blog. Thank you for your comment. It is very important for me that Hispanics have access to essential and practical prevention information. We represent the minority group in the US with the highest percentage of uninsured individuals. A significant number of Hispanics have access to the Internet, but not to a primary doctor.

I think that it is great that you take the time to share your thoughts with readers. I don't imagine that there are a lot of CEOs out there doing what you do.

Feliz Navidad!

Juan Jose Rivera

Rick Sullivan said...

First, Paul, you should know this is my first time responding to a blog, but I thought if I were ever going to start, this should be the moment. Thank you for the “partial credit.” Better than no credit, I say. Still, we’re aiming for “full credit.” DCR crews are doing their level best to get our roads and sidewalks, footpaths and bridges cleared. Remember, we had one storm last Thursday and another on Sunday, laying down alternating layers of particularly tenacious ice and snow. Our first priority always is getting roads and high-traffic pedestrian areas cleared, particularly around schools, for example. We’ve bought some new equipment this year, including spreaders for sand and salt, or salt alternatives, and we continue to devise new strategies for keeping our roads, sidewalks, and pathways clear. (This afternoon, for example, we got permission from the Boston Conservation Commission to use sand on the Esplanade footpaths, an area too close to the river for salt.) We’re working as hard as we can with the crews and equipment we have, and I am extremely proud of our staff and the effort and hours they have put into this cleanup. Our budget, as anyone knows, is not unlimited, and this week has been particularly trying. Still, we feel up to the job and actually appreciate finding out which areas could use a little more attention. So thank you!

Rick Sullivan
Commissioner
DCR

Paul Levy said...

Thanks for writing, Rick, and best of luck in the new job! I hear another storm is coming through . . .

mds said...

I've got to recommend a life-changing discovery for walking on ice. It's called Yak Trax and you can get them at places like REI and hiking/moutaineering stores. They are like tire chains for your shoes. You won't believe how well you can walk in them -- not indoors, where they make it slippery! -- but you can walk on ice with confidence. Every elderly person should own a pair, and the rest of us too. i don't have any financial interest in this, I just think they save a lot of minor injuries. You pop them on and off the bottom of your shoes.

Barbara said...

You said it, Paul! If only they'd just concentrate on plowing, picking up garbage, fixing bridges, repaving roads, etc...

Dr. Michael Grady said...

Paul - I enjoyed this blog on the pedestrian problem in traveling from the Longwood T station to the medical area. It appears you have drawn some positive attention to this dangerous problem. I am writing to share with you my own recent driving saga in the Longwood medical area. Last Tuesday (12/18/07) I had an 11:00 AM appointment (doctors can be patients too) in the area and I was well ahead of time getting there. However, when I turned my car off Route 9 onto Brookline Avenue I was immediately confronted with a long line of backed up traffic. I crawled slowly up the avenue and reached the Jamaica Way. Continuing on Brookline Avenue from the Jamaica Way to Longwood Avenue was complete gridlock and a trip of 5-10 minutes became a journey of 45-60 minutes. There was the on-going construction on Brookline Avenue (the new Dana Farber building) but over the past years construction in this area has been fairly constant. I am sure there were many people frustrated by this traffic jam and I am sure this resulted in many other patients late for their appointments. There needs to be an operational plan in place for such days and times when it is possible for these gridlocks to occur so that they may be resolved in a timely fashion. On an annecdotal note, this was not even my worst experience with traffic in the Longwood Medical area. From 1998-2006 I was a Vice President at Children's Hospital and a few years ago the Red Sox held a September day/night doubleheader against the Indians. The first game started at 1:00 PM and the second game at 7:00 PM. The first game went into extra innings and did not get over until about 5:00 PM so you had 35,000 people leaving Fenway Park with another 35,000 in the Longwood area trying to get into Fenway Park. It took me 90 minutes to go one block from Children's and a couple of hours to get home to Newton. On a more positive note, I wish you and all those who read this blog a very happy and healthy 2008.