WEST DOVER — Although a local resident didn’t get support from the Select Board for a plan to bring an array of recreational activities to town via a park on Route 100, he’s still pursuing the project.
Trip Morse of Dover said he envisions the park will “have something for everybody, all ages” including pickleball, gaga ball, spike ball, horseshoes, volleyball, bocce ball, badminton, cornhole, tetherball and a pump track for bikes.
Over the course of about five months, he put in a lot of legwork to gauge community interest and feasibility. He said he talked with local leaders, business owners, athletes, Dover Police Chief Randy Johnson and companies to contract with for installing equipment before approaching the Select Board in September.
Prior to getting into the insurance industry, Morse was a tennis pro. He had given up the sport but he would play platform tennis or paddle tennis indoors. When his nephews gave him a pickleball racquet for Christmas, he took offense.
“I gave them the finger and said, ‘I’m not old enough for pickleball.’ They said, ‘Yes you are,’” Morse recounted.
He learned how to play pickleball in Florida and began playing locally at the Old School Community Center in Wilmington. Then he sought an outdoor venue to play and approached Rich Caplan, who owns property and buildings along Route 100. Caplan, who had been one of his students when he taught in a high school in Hartford, Conn., offered to lease some land near Dover Town Park.
Morse said he met a Select Board member for cocktails to discuss the project. He recalled the board member loving the idea and seeming willing to support a lease. He said he asked if the board member saw any “speed bumps or issues,” and none were cited.
“I said, ‘Great. If you see any, I’ll adjust my course,’” he said.
Morse got in touch with volleyball players who use courts at The Sitzmark, teachers and parents with young kids. He reported hearing enthusiasm about the project.
When it was presented to the board in September, two members raised concerns about the town already having a few trail projects in the pipeline. Morse cited a recreation master plan the town commissioned in 2020 that suggested offering additional activities that were part of his proposal.
“The whole thing was to have a visible place that would bring all generations together for recreation,” he said of the plan in an interview. “This fit that bill completely. It would also bring people from out of town. I went to realtors, the restaurant owners and the hotel people. I got them to write letters of recommendation.”
The goal was to get $225,000 in 1 percent local option tax revenue, which is earmarked for economic development projects in town, to construct the park. Also requested was support for managing and staffing the park.
Morse’s revenue projections show the park bringing in about $35,000 to $38,000 each year. However, he believes it might be closer to $50,000.
Morse anticipates 100 annual memberships would be sold at an average of $150 per family to those living outside of Dover. He wants Dover residents to use the facilities for free. Day passes also would be sold.
Morse believes the town could host pickleball tournaments and other events. He sees the additional activities as helping attract wedding or birthday parties.
Staffing and maintenance is estimated to cost about $22,000 a year. Donated benches and picnic tables, and sponsorships also are anticipated.
Morse said someone is willing to spend $65,000 to build the sport court, which has a special surface sitting above the asphalt and is protected from rain. Tennis and basketball can be played on the court.
Morse said he’s “thrilled” two members of the board spoke in support of the project. Petitioning the town for an article for annual Town Meeting to consider whether to provide funding, as board member Joe Mahon recommended, is still an option for him.
Not owning the property is a “massive issue for me,” Select Board Chairwoman Victoria Capitani said at the meeting. Shippee offered to participate in private fundraising efforts, calling the plan “a great concept.”
“I think it’s a good opportunity for someone else to jump in and do it,” Capitani said.
Board member Scott Salway applauded the effort, saying he would love to see his children get to use the park.