“Unleashing America’s innovation” is a great soapbox phrase.

In three words, it incites patriotism by referencing U.S. industrial strength, and the mind-bending achievements possible by our best and brightest. So, we ask America’s innovators:

What do we do about the snow?

Maine is running out of ideas. One town manager, Glen Holmes in Buckfield, has taken to apologizing for the town’s inability to clear the roads. Lewiston and other cities are calling for federal disaster aid.

And perhaps most galling: some people are no longer receiving mail because of dangerous sidewalks. The famous U.S. Postal Service creed, “Neither snow nor heat nor gloom of night,” has slip-slided away from its appointed rounds.

This stems from failures in tried-and-true snow control systems used by cities and towns. Plow trucks and equipment have broken down, salt and sand supplies have run short and budgets have run dry.

There must be smarter ways to deal with the snow.

We’ll start with an idea. Some golf shoes are made with retractable spikes, so the tips don’t ruin a playing partner’s putt. Yet no company, we could find, makes boots with retractable spikes for traction on slippery surfaces, such as ice.

Patents are out there (we looked them up). A product is not. (Attachable spikes are prevalent, however.)

Perhaps a few experimental pairs of “traction shoes,” tested by devoted mail carriers, could unlock its market potential. More people walk upon ice than stroll from tee-to-green, after all.

Or how about this: export the snow. Florida, Georgia and Alabama are dealing with a crippling drought. They are negotiating fiercely for water resources, to protect residents and agriculture. We, in Maine, are using excess snow, in part, to build the world’s tallest snowwoman in Bethel.

Snow seems a precious commodity. Could container ships, packed with sawdust like ice boats of yore, transport its frozen cargo into warmer climes for drought relief? Surely this would be worth a few bushels of Georgia peaches or Florida oranges.

OK, maybe both of these ideas are bunk.

So is having Maine hamstrung, north to south, by snowfall that’s interrupting the state’s economic and social productivity, and leaving city and town governments scrambling for solutions as proven methods falter.

Isn’t this the reason cities such as Lewiston are mulling new penalties for failing to shovel sidewalks?

The harmful effects of ice and snow are lasting, too. The wear upon roadways from incessant plowing and heaving frost could cause further economic headaches this spring. Let’s hope the repair money isn’t all spent on more salt.

Solution through innovation is often used for grandiose problems, but it holds true for day-to-day troubles as well.

The snow is wreaking havoc. Let’s unleash our innovation to find new ways of dealing with it.


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