Dover looking to expand trail network with land purchase

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DOVER — Under contract to purchase approximately 50 undeveloped acres, the town is looking to expand its recreational offerings.

"I see this as a great opportunity to build trails and other outdoor activities to support a healthy outdoor lifestyle," Dover Select Board Chairman Josh Cohen said in an email. "A true four-season destination. The location couldn't be better and will support businesses along the Route 100 corridor."

Last Tuesday, the board voted unanimously to have Cohen sign a purchase and sale agreement with Samuel Erving LLC and Shirley Basso to buy 46 Crosstown Road for $240,000. The deal calls for a $1,000 contract deposit then an additional $23,000 to be paid within seven days after a review by attorneys.

Dover Economic Development Director Steve Neratko presented the board with the proposal. The property, which has a right-of-way for access from Route 100 and the paved Valley Trail near Dover Forge, climbs up a hill to an area by the head of the Crosstown Trail next to the Mount Snow Golf Club.

The purchase is seen as an opportunity to add elevation to existing hiking and biking trails, and possibly create a venue for disc golf, skateboarding or other recreational activities.

"We are now currently under contract to buy the property," Neratko said in an email. "We now have to do our due diligence as part of the purchase, like any other property purchase. This 50-acre parcel is very important to the future of our trails and park network, as well as a potential location for a variety of recreational venues."

The land, Neratko said, is in the "heart of our commercial district."

"While it is not a good location for a residential or commercial development, it is optimal for the type of recreational focus that we have," he said. "It will allow us to connect our current trails network with the commercial district while also leaving room for additional amenities."

Andy McLean, town clerk and chairman of the Dover Area Recreation Trails committee, called the news "exciting" and commended the Select Board and Neratko for doing "a fantastic job."

"They are showing a commitment to creating a trails program in Dover that is not a supplemental amenity to our outdoor recreational economy, but a trails program that will make us a destination in the off-season," he said in an email.

"It will take a bunch more time and effort, however, one trip to Burke and Kingdom Trails this time of year can make a believer out of anyone," he said, referring to two areas with robust trail systems. Select Board members "were also tough negotiators and did not overpay, which is important."

McLean said an old sugarbush in the middle of the land is likely his favorite part of the property.

"It looks for all the world like a piece of old-growth forest," he said. "It looks like no other woods I've seen in southern Vermont and the thought of a public trail winding through that stand of old maples and the joy that will bring to people is priceless."

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Mike Purcell, town agent for the purchase, said he is also excited about the project.

"It's a big piece that's pretty super centrally located," he said via telephone while he was on a trail in Marlboro, describing himself as "a mountain bike trail nutjob" who travels to different places to ride. "You see various towns that have these networks and ultimately, the key to their success is a good uphill. ... This property offers that and much more."

Purcell called the price tag "a great deal."

In April, the town hired Weston & Simpson of Waterbury and its partner Morton Trails to create a 25-year recreation plan for the community. The process involves looking at existing trails and parks but also new opportunities.

Purcell said a survey will ask for opinions on potential projects, and informational meetings will be held to gather more input.

"In Vermont, if you just do stuff without asking people, they think you're doing it to them," he said.

The idea, he added, is to ensure "no one is left out."

Neratko said focus group meetings will be held July 16. Anyone who wants to discuss the future of recreation in Dover is encouraged to contact him. According to the Dover town website, Neratko's phone number is 802-464-5100, ext. 4, and his email address is econdev@doververmont.com.

Pastor Jeremy Kirk of West Dover Congregational Church United Church of Christ has been proposing a disc course, which he said would be "an important resource" for local community members and "a destination attraction for three-season visitors in our valley."

"For local residents, the course would provide a much-needed public venue for kids and families," he said in an email. "Disc golf is the fastest growing sport in the United States, in part, due to its accessibility to people of various economic, physical and developmental backgrounds. In addition, it promotes inclusive and collaborative play where other sports fall short. It can be played casually or competitively by folks of diverse backgrounds and abilities."

Kirk said the property being purchased by the town could also house a skate park, another proposed project in town. He looks at the venue as a way to "empower underserved and vulnerable youth through education, recreation and community building."

"As an attraction for visitors to our valley on the off-ski season, the course will work in tandem with other attractions to economically ballast local business who provide lodging, dining and sporting equipment," he said.

The proposal for the disc golf course includes a design by 2009 Disc Golf World Champion Avery Jenkins. That would "maximize its value to destination players and local players alike," Kirk said.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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