If downtown Bucksport business owners see an older woman with a pad of paper and a hunter orange safety vest coming toward them the day after a big snowstorm, they may hastily scramble into action.
If they’ve already shoveled the sidewalk in front of their business, they have nothing to fear. If they haven’t, they face the disapproval of Valerie Sulya: shoveling enforcer.
“You’ve got keep your sidewalk clear,” Sulya said. “If you’re in a wheelchair or you’re a senior, it can be really hard to get around. You don’t think about it if you don’t have a problem with that sort of thing. But it makes things tough for people that do.”
Sulya, 80, is Bucksport’s sidewalk superintendent, an unofficial position she’s held since 2006. She’s a one-woman force for accessibility during the messy winter months. After every snowstorm, she’s out walking the street between the library and the post office, taking notes on the thoroughness of the sidewalk shoveling in front of each business.
At the end of each winter, Sulya goes back through her notes and tallies up the places that have done their civic duty, and the ones that have slacked off to various degrees. The business that’s done the best job each season gets a coveted prize: the Ella B. Raynor Golden Shovel, a full-size snow shovel painted a gleaming gold.
“People put it up in their business. It shows they care,” Sulya said. “You can be proud of it. It’s an incentive to shovel.”
Shovel namesake Ella B. Raynor, an advocate for seniors in the Bucksport area who passed away a few years ago, noticed over the winter of 2005 that most of the sidewalks in downtown Bucksport were poorly shoveled, if they were shoveled at all. She petitioned the Bucksport Town Council to create an ordinance requiring businesses to clear their sidewalks after public works had come through to do its initial plowing. That did not become law, but it’s still largely left up to those businesses to clear the sidewalks.
Andy Lacher, owner of Bookstacks, a downtown bookstore and wine shop, was the first winner of the shovel, back in 2006, and has won it three more times since then. He’s among the most competitive shovelers.
“I want it back this year. I’ve been really good about my shoveling,” Lacher said. “[Valerie] doesn’t mess around, either. She doesn’t care if you’ve won in the past. Did you do a good job this year? That’s what she cares about. She’s not someone to be trifled with.”
Other previous winners include Wahl’s Dairy Port (which Sulya points out isn’t even open for the winter), Community Pharmacy, Rosen’s, the Buck Memorial Library, Camden National Bank and Nancy Cation, LCSW. Last year’s winner was community building organization Bucksport Heart and Soul, in its first full year as a part of downtown Bucksport.
“I think when businesses do this, they welcome people of all abilities to walk the streets safely, and that’s all about who we are as a small town,” said Nancy Minot, coordinator for Bucksport Heart and Soul.
In addition to being Bucksport’s public health officer, Sulya has volunteered with Hospice Volunteers of Hancock County for more than 20 years, and works at the Bucksport Area Child Care Center. She retired as a registered nurse with Community Health and Counseling more than a decade ago, but still maintains a full-time schedule.
“I just love this community, and I’ve been here for a long time. I want everybody to be able to access the things they need,” she said. “I’m in great health. I love to do it. Why would I stop?”
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