Dover snow park ready for ... snow

By MORGAN MINCH

Democrat Staff Writer

DOVER ó Recreation Superintendent Gary Bannon has a surprise Christmas present for the city ó a new snow park.

Bannon kept the 400-foot long sledding slope and new snowboard jump project hush-hush until Thursday when he and volunteer Eben Dorr, 20, of Dover, hung signs at Garrison Hill Park telling where each slope is accessed. Now all thatís left is for Mother Nature to drop a blanket of snow so the public can take to its new playground.

But then, itís not exactly new. Until about 30 years ago, there was a public ski slope at Garrison Hill, and that is where Bannon and Dorr spent the fall chopping down brush and trees, smoothing and building.

"People asked specifically if we could reopen Garrison Hill," Bannon said. It was the sledders and snowboarders who were most vocal with their requests. Many people have asked, year after year, for a place where they could play such winter sports. Until now, most had to find a hill on private property to use, Bannon said.

People even called Mayor Wil Boc about it when he was running for office four years ago. But it wasnít until just a few weeks ago that Bannon was able to tell Boc there is now a place to swoosh down the snow.

Despite the fact that there was a great interest in such a project, it never came about until Dorr volunteered to help Bannon build the snow park.

"He offered to help, go out and cut the trees," Bannon said. "And I had access to the equipment we needed."

The duo dedicated about two days a week to the project beginning in October, ripping the shrubbery out of the ground until there were two slopes. Then, they widened each slope, added buffers on the sides to keep athletes in the center and away from the surrounding woods, and areas at the bottoms to slow down the sledders and snowboarders.

Contractors helped rip up tree stumps, flatten and shape the slopes. Each run is also covered with wood chips to keep them from eroding until spring when the city can hydroseed them.

Snowboarders can now go to the top of Garrison Hill Park, jump off a slope and into a trail with piles of dirt for jumps. The initial drop is pretty steep, Dorr said, so itís probably not for people who have never snowboarded before; still, itís basic enough for just about anyone with a little experience.

"Itís nothing significant, but itís good to practice on," Dorr said.

In fact, he thinks it will be a good place for younger kids to learn the popular X-sport, and Dorr expects there will be plenty of snowboarders around to give a little advice on how itís done. After all, as far as he knows, this is the only public snowboard park around.

"No other town has one, and itís good to have another thing for kids to get out and do," said Dorr.

In a city that already has a skateboard park and is working toward an ice rink, along with all the other recreational activities offered, he believes the snow park will complement all the other outdoor activities. A lot of the same people using the skateboard park may be using the snow park, even though it is usually a more expensive winter sport.

But snowboarding gets expensive because private slopes can charge $50 a day ó on top of what a board costs. A public slope will make that daily charge disappear.

"Kidsíll like it, and they can get a good used board (at local ski shops) and try it out," Dorr said. "Itíll be a good time for sure."

The sledding slope is accessed through the Old Rollinsford Road park entrance behind Wentworth-Douglass Hospital. Thereís a path to the top of the slope ó which is actually to the side and a little below the snowboarding slope.

The duo designed it to be slightly funnel shaped, a little higher on the sides so sledders are less likely to get near the woods. There is also a bowl and barrier at the bottom to catch the snow speeders at the end.