2016 | News

Meet the Bethesda Man Who Spent $40,000 on Snow-Clearing Equipment to Help Dig Out His Neighborhood

Richard Hoye says he hopes his and other volunteer snow-clearing efforts will help build community

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Bethesda resident Richard Hoye clears snow from an Old Georgetown Road sidewalk on Wednesday

Aaron Kraut

The closest thing to a car Richard Hoye owns is the small, diesel-powered skid-steer loader he’s been using to scoop up snow since Sunday along Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda.

It’s a good thing, because at a price of $18,000 (with another $6,000 of maintenance and accessory costs) the skid-steer has cost Hoye big bucks in the three winters he’s used it to clear his Lucas Lane neighborhood and nearby sidewalks of snow.

“You can’t have people stuck in their homes,” Hoye said Wednesday as he cleared snow that had been plowed into a sidewalk ramp at Old Georgetown Road and South Brook Lane.

“It’s a way of performing a service that will help my neighbors, but also help the people who are serving us,” Hoye said. “Crises are a time to learn from and learn how to live together as a stronger community, things that will spill over to daily life. That’s my hope.”

The roughly 27 inches of snow that fell last weekend in Bethesda created Hoye’s biggest challenge yet. The snow plow that attaches to his piece of machinery doesn’t work in more than 18 inches of snow. His response was to dig deeper into his wallet.

He bought a $15,000 industrial-grade snow blower attachment specially made in Switzerland. He’s hoping it will be delivered this week. The American-based dealer for the product is set to fly in to town to help Hoye attach it.

“The snow blower is more appropriate for this amount of snow. Also with less snow, it’ll let me cover longer distances,” Hoye said.

After two days of working until 10 p.m. to clear snow from his dead-end street with 16 homes, his goal now is to clear the sidewalk on the east side of Old Georgetown Road from Auburn Avenue in Woodmont Triangle to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus, a roughly mile-long stretch.

 

Top photo by Aaron Kraut. Bottom left photo (via Richard Hoye) shows a plowed in sidewalk on Old Georgetown Road. Bottom right photo via Caroline Fitzpatrick.

Hoye turned 60 last week. The retired Montgomery County career firefighter has lived in his house on the corner of Lucas Lane and Old Georgetown Road for the past eight years. He grew up in Potomac, and said he found his passion for fire service while volunteering on an ambulance crew while in college at Frostburg State University.

Since retiring, he’s taken on plenty of local political causes. He worked as a staff member for former County Council member Duchy Trachtenberg and has long advocated for improved bicycling and transit facilities at community meetings.

Those who frequent Old Georgetown Road likely know him as the bicyclist who often attaches a small platform to his bike to bring along his dogs.

To some of his neighbors on Lucas Lane, his snow-removal efforts over the last week are nothing short of heroic.

“You deserve a medal here,” a neighbor told him Wednesday. “No seriously, good job.”

Two years ago, Hoye was one of more than 100 county residents who council member Nancy Floreen honored with “Golden Shovel” awards for their efforts clearing snow from neighbors’ driveways and sidewalks.

On Wednesday, Hoye praised a group of his neighbors who used gas snow blowers to help dig out residents across Old Georgetown Road. Neighbors also helped Hoye by using shovels to dig out his skid-steer when it got stuck.

He called his snow-clearing effort this week “Action Zero,” a play on the “Vision Zero” plan council members announced last week to improve safety on roads.

“Crises are an opportunity,” Hoye said. “Even on a spring day, there are a lot of people’s needs that are not being met. So I’m hoping this effort and other people who are doing this throughout the county will pay off on a daily basis.”