It is a winter’s graveyard: a jumble of crates, garbage cans, classroom desks, road cones, buckets and every type of chair imaginable: wooden dinner table chairs, beach chairs, steel folding chairs, camping chairs. One of them had a piece of fluorescent yellow paper taped to its back; “DO NOT MOVE!” it proclaimed.
This small lot near the Somerville DPW that overlooks Trum Field, just off Broadway, is where spacesavers go to die.
While Boston typically allows a 48-hour grace period for spacesavers after the last snowfall, Somerville has a zero tolerance policy. If city crews see them, they’re instructed to take them. Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curatone said violators could possibly be fined for litter, but that never happens because “enforcement would be very difficult.”
“We’ve been very aggressive in removing them,” said Curatone, who estimates his city has spent north of $5 million in snow removal and road treatment this winter. “We’re always chasing it, quite candidly.”
Monday morning, Somerville public works crews could be seen emptying truck beds of the parochial symbols of winter in greater Boston. The pile was sizable; Curatone said he couldn’t give an estimate as to how many spacesavers the city had confiscated. He said if people arrived at the DPW requesting their spacesaver, the city would give it back and tell them that such a practice is not allowed in the city.
“It doesn’t happen that often,” he said.
The mayor considered the spacesavers to be blightful and to be public safety hazards; one spacesaver got stuck in the blades of a piece of snow removal equipment that was attached to a front-end loader and “gummed it up for about six hours…that’s enough time for that piece of equipment to clear a side street of snow.”
And what is the city known for its artistic community going to do with the pile of junk? Curatone is open to suggestions.
“We’re trying to find abnormal ideas to celebrate the departure of this abnormal winter,” said Curatone. “We’re going to query the public.”
Among Curatone’s ideas: a big yard sale or “a funky holiday sculpture of some kind.”
At least two Somerville artists say there is potential to make interesting art from the space savers.
“Honestly, making something out of that, I think it would be fantastic,” said Ellie Laramee-Byers, a coordinator for Somerville Open Studios. “I know my own studio mate would so something with it, she’s always bringing items she found back, taking them apart and making them into other things.”
David Tonnesen, a sculptor who lives Somerville, had an array of ideas.
He suggested melting the steel and plastic down and create snow shovels, planters or coffee tables the city could sell.
“Turn it into something people would actually keep and it doesn’t end up in the trash stream.”
Or, he said, the city could try shredding everything and selling bags of the spacesavers.
“Hey, if people are buying snow, why not?”
Or how about chaining all the items together and lifting it with a helicopter “to see how high it would go?”
“That one’s ludicrous, I admit it,” he said.
Somerville isn’t the only municipality that has started picking up the winter artifacts – threatening signs be damned – in the area.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced last week that Monday city crews would start removing spacesavers. The city had an informal policy where people were allowed to saved spots two days after the last snow; although people have been allowed to save spots for longer as Mother Nature dumped almost eight feet of snow on the city in the last month or so.