A Whitehorse woman is reminding residents in the city to keep their sidewalks cleared after struggling to help her elderly mother get around.
Helen Fitzsimmons's mom, Ruth, lives at Whistle Bend Place, a care facility just down the road from her former home. Fitzsimmons tries to take her back home from time to time for a visit.
It's not a long walk, but Fitzsimmons said it's been hard for her mom, who uses a wheelchair, to make her way down the road because not all residents in the neighbourhood are shovelling their sidewalks.
Residents of Whitehorse are required to shovel the sidewalk in front of their home no more than 48 hours after a snowfall. Fitzsimmons figures some people don't realize this, but said it makes things hard for her family when people don't do it.
"We have a very large family," Fitzsimmons said. "I've always got two or three people with me that can help me or shovel. But that's not the point. What if I wanted to take her by myself?"
Other residents experiencing similar problems
Fitzsimmons said she's noticed other residents with mobility issues struggling to get around the city.
"The last couple of winters I've had to help elderly people get from their vehicles to the sidewalks on Main Street," she said. "You have to be a mountain goat [to get around]."
Whitehorse resident Lisa Alton said her family has shared similar experiences. Her father, Owen, uses a wheelchair. Alton said her parents, who live in Toronto, have had to reconsider coming to Whitehorse for a visit because they can't be sure her father will be able to get around.
"They wanted to come when my next baby is born, and stay at this place that is really close to my house," Alton said. "And even that is not really possible unless we hire some neighborhood kids and make sure the sidewalk is always plowed every day, all the way to our house."
Alton added that snow isn't the only barrier. She said even in the summer it can be hard for her parents to find somewhere to stay, and to enjoy local businesses and restaurants.
Alton said it would help if the city paid for sidewalk clearing instead of leaving it to residents.
"It's such a gamble to leave it up to every individual," she said. "That's not reliable at all. If something is not fully accessible, then it's not accessible at all."
Expensive for city to clear
Bev Buckway, president of the Yukon Council on Aging, a group that aims to help people age in place, said not everyone is able to take care of snow clearing on their property. She said the council runs a program that connects seniors with people who can help them with it.
"There is a high demand," Buckway said. "In fact, we were getting calls early in the fall wanting to line up people."
The program isn't free, Buckway said, and people who use the service are responsible for paying the person who does the job. Buckway said she wasn't aware of any similar service for people who can't afford to pay.
Buckway, who was once mayor of Whitehorse, said sidewalk clearing would be a big cost for the city, and for the municipality to take it on, taxes would likely have to increase.
"There's no doubt in my mind that you'd have to employ a whole bunch more people at the city to do that kind of work," she said. "So if that's what people want to have then people have to indicate that they're willing to pay for the extra."