Finding snow and ice on these Eastern Oregon University sidewalks would be as likely as discovering an iceberg in a desert.
They are small oases for people seeking clear places to walk in La Grande, sidewalks heated by a snow-melt system that provides EOU’s campus with some of the safest places to walk in La Grande when winter weather hits.
“A lot of people like to walk on campus. We want to make it as safe as we can for them,” said Luke Aldrich, EOU’s organizational transformation and capital projects manager.
Aldrich also said the heated sidewalks boost efficiency since crews never have to spend time removing snow and ice from them.
Eastern has more than 150 yards of heated sidewalks. The weatherproof walkways are located along the east side of the Eighth Street hill; in front of much of the south side of Badgley Hall and on its west and east sides; the south and north sides of Inlow Hall; the east side of Quinn Coliseum; and the sidewalks around EOU’s tennis courts.
Eastern also has heated entrances and staircases. Buildings with at least two heated entrances include Pierce Library, Quinn Coliseum, Alikut Hall and the Hoke Union Building. Buildings with one heated entry include Loso Hall and Ackerman Hall.
Hoke also has heated west- and east-side staircases. A third heated staircase is one connecting the new parking lot where Hunt Hall was before it was torn down in 2017 and the older parking lot which Hunt Hall was just north of.
All but one of the ice-proof sidewalks, entryways and staircases are heated via a system with closed-loop tubing. A mixture of steam and glycol (antifreeze) is circulated through separate loops. Heat from the steam loop is transferred to the glycol via a transfer device.
This warms the surrounding concrete above the loops, melting snow and ice. The steam for the system is produced by a gas boiler near EOU’s physical plant on the south end of campus.
The lone walkway with a non-steam snow-melt system is the one in the old Hunt Hall area referenced earlier, which is heated with electricity. An electric snow-melt system was installed there because there is a transformer nearby.
“It was a matter of convenience,” Aldrich said.
The public is welcome to use the sidewalks except when Eastern’s campus is closed, as it was Monday due to inclement weather. Tim Seydel, Eastern’s vice president for university advancement, said the university closes the campus when it cannot ensure the safety of everyone visiting its campus.
“When it is closed, it is about safety,” Seydel said. “We want to limit risk. When it says closed, stay home.”
He stressed that when Eastern is closed, all of its employees and students, not just community members, are urged to stay off campus unless they have to be there.
The possibility of installing snow-melt systems will continue to be considered in the future every time Eastern adds or replaces sidewalks.
“It is something we will always evaluate,” Aldrich said.
He said the benefits provided by safety measures such as ice-proof sidewalk will always weigh more heavily in his mind than the cost when making a decision.
“It is hard to put a value on (preventing) an injury,” he said.