Salt or gravel: student safety or environmental concern?

Katrina Meyer, News Editor

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The weather this winter has been all over the place. One day it’s 50 degrees and the next day is well below freezing. As a result of the weather whiplash we are all experiencing, water is melting and then freezing which leads to an abundance of ice all over the Luther pathways. I don’t typically mind ice. I’m from the Chicago area, so we deal with wintry weather conditions all the time. Living so close to Lake Michigan means that we deal with lake-effect snow frequently. It isn’t convenient, but it’s not a big problem because the city uses salt. Salt causes the freezing point of ice to lower which makes it easier to melt the ice. It also creates traction when walking. Other places in the United States use sand or gravel to create traction either because they do not have ice or because they are concerned about the environmental impact of salt. Sand and gravel create traction when walking, but in my opinion, they don’t do enough in the Midwest winter conditions.

Luther’s campus isn’t the easiest to navigate. The paths around campus don’t always take the most direct routes, and the hills make everything more complicated. During the winter, it can be downright dangerous trying to walk around campus, especially around bigger hills such as the ones leading to Jenson or Olson. I had a personal experience with that danger about a week ago.

I was walking across campus after a week of ice, snow, and wintry mix. The ground was slick, and I didn’t have to lift my feet to move forward. It felt like I was skating across half of the campus. By the time I got back to the hill leading down to Olson, I had nearly fallen several times. At the top of the hill, I felt my feet start to slide out from under me once again. Because I was on a hill and the ground was solid ice, there was nothing I could do to regain my balance. I fell hard and ended up sliding a little down the hill before I could regain my balance. I knew that I fell hard, hit my butt hand, and dropped my phone. Finding my phone, standing up, and continuing down the hill was not an easy task. When I got back to my room, I could see that bruises were already forming on my hand and on butt and that I had cracked the screen on my phone.

I’ve heard many similar stories during my time at Luther. It isn’t just about a lack of coordination or balance. A lot of students have difficulty walking around campus without falling during the wintertime. I believe that that is an issue. Sand and gravel just don’t do enough to help students get around. They may add some traction, but mainly the little pieces get stuck in my shoes and tracked into buildings all around campus. I believe that it should be a priority to make students as safe as possible when walking around campus. I know that salt isn’t as environmentally friendly as gravel or sand, but there is an option to buy salt that is less harmful to the environment and I feel like that would be a good compromise between the two sides. At the end of the day, I feel like taking care of students during long, cold, and icy winter seasons is enough to justify the use of a brand of salt that also takes environmental concerns into account.

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