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No matter conditions, volunteer shoveler keeps Traverse City neighborhood walkable

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Max Copeland
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Interlochen Public Radio
Eleanor Brockway is wearing her Michigan Nurses Association scarf and hat and shoveling the corner in front of her house in Traverse City

Despite it being officially spring, northern Michigan is forecasted to get some more snow over the next few days. And with temperatures fluctuating above and below freezing, sidewalks can get icy.

That can be particularly dangerous for people with mobility challenges.

Over the years, the non-profit Norte has teamed up with community members to keep their sidewalks clear.

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Max Copeland
/
Interlochen Public Radio
Eleanor Brockway shoveling snow in front of her house in Traverse City.

It’s a cold morning in Traverse City, and there’s snow on the ground from the day before.

The city already plowed the sidewalks, but Eleanor Brockway is clearing the snow down to the pavement.

Eleanor is a nurse at Munson Hospital, and she works the night shift.

She says she has so much energy coming home from work it’s hard to fall asleep.

“It’s kind of like my zen rock garden,” Brockway said. “Taking out my stress and everything onto the snow hahaha.”

Eleanor lives on a corner, and she volunteered with Norte several years ago to make sure her intersection remained clear throughout the winter.

Gary Howe is the Advocacy and Communications Director for Norte. Because there are nearly 100 miles of sidewalks in Traverse City, he says that can be a lot for the city to handle.

“I think it’s on all of us to help make sure that the community is safe and accessible and comfortable for everybody,” Howe said.

When the city clears the road the plows can dump a big pile of snow right where the sidewalk meets the street.

“And, it’s dense-packed and turns into ice,” Brockway said.

Today there’s about two and a half inches of ice near the crosswalk.

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Max Copeland
/
Interlochen Public Radio
Ice and snow obstructing the sidewalk that leads to the crosswalk near Eleanor Brockway's house in Traverse City.

“You have some barriers that might not seem like barriers to people that are able bodied, but for folks in wheelchairs or people that are weaker in strength you know that might be a barrier to enjoying outdoors — safely,” Brockway said.

And, that’s why she’s doing this. To keep her neighbors like Mary Lou Miske safe.

“You have to have some help as you get older,” Miske said. “And, here I am 86 years old. How did that happen?”

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Max Copeland
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Interlochen Public Radio
Mary Lou Miske is Eleanor Brockway's friend and neighbor in Traverse City.

She says sometimes the snow is too heavy for her to lift, but it’s not for Eleanor.

“I am very afraid of falling,” Miske said. “She’s here every time it snows practically, and she does the steps and does down to the road, and I don’t know, really, what I would do without her. She’s just so helpful.”

Today, Eleanor uses her metal gardening shovel to chip away at the ice, but it proved to be too much. She decided to put some salt on it and call it a day.

She says she wants to be a good example of what a community member can be, and she hopes it’s contagious.

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Max Copeland
/
Interlochen Public Radio
Eleanor Brockway shoveled the snow down to the pavement on the corner sidewalk near her house in Traverse City.