Hanover’s Pine Park slated for improvements to accessibility, sustainability

  • Sam Potter, of L & M Service Contractors, talks with excavator operator Joe Smith, as they begin to recontour a section of the decommissioned Hanover Country Club golf course that sits on Pine Park land to a more natural slope on Thursday, May 5, 2022. The Pine Park Association is preparing to build a new accessibility trail to connect the park to Rope Ferry Road. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Pine Park Trustee Bruce Atwood cuts a section of a fallen hemlock to remove it from a trail in Pine Park on Thursday, May 5, 2022 as trustee Barry Harwock, left, volunteer Steve Fowler, middle, and trustee Bill Young, right, look on. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/10/2022 10:25:09 PM
Modified: 5/10/2022 10:25:08 PM

HANOVER — In 1905, Hanover conservationists saved about 100 acres of forest from the Diamond Match Co., and established Pine Park. Now the park’s board of trustees wants to clean up the park, make it accessible to more people and improve wildlife habitats.

“The motto is: Prepare the park for next 100 years. Make the forest resilient and sustainable,” said Linda Fowler, who chairs the Pine Park Board of Trustees.

Board members also recently discovered that Pine Park includes over 8 acres that were long thought to belong to Dartmouth’s former golf course at the Hanover Country Club, Fowler said. The trustees pressed for a survey because the property lines between the park and the college’s property were vague, relying on long-gone landmarks and century-old maps.

The trustees plan to build an accessible 2,300-foot-long and 6-foot-wide trail that will begin at the end of Rope Ferry Road. Expected to cost around $160,000, the trail will lead toward a vista with benches overlooking Girl Brook and the rolling landscape beyond. Strollers and wheelchairs will be able to roll over the finely crushed stone, Fowler said. The edge of the woodlands are rife with honeysuckle, barberry and bucklethorn — all invasive species; The Pine Park Association won a grant of approximately $22,500, which the nonprofit will match, from the federal National Resources Conservation Service to remove them.

“Invasive species are an unending battle,” Fowler said. And with more native plants along the edge of the forest, wildlife will find “edge habitat” that is scarce on the landscape, she explained.

The trustees are determined to care for the forest, where needle cast fungus forced them to clear-cut 11 acres and erosion is an ongoing struggle. The turbulent Girl Brook runs through the park, eroding the loose glacial soils, Fowler said. The forest is full of old pines, and some patches may approach old-growth, she said. But deer are stymieing young saplings. The trustees hope that by actively protecting wild and planted saplings from deer, they can steward the next generation of forest growth.

The total improvements at Pine Park will cost about $300,000, and Fowler said that the board had secured about half the funds by late April. The cost of everything is rising, though, and the total cost may land higher, she said.

In the meantime, Dartmouth College is remediating Pine Park’s section of the golf course, which it closed permanently during the pandemic. The sharp ledges of the tees and greens will be smoothed into a more naturalized landscape, Fowler said. The college also removed an old trestle bridge over Girl Brook out of safety concerns.

In Dartmouth’s 2021 Master Plan, it proposed using part of the former golf course near Pine Park for an arboretum. Other sections were considered potential sites for development. Diana Lawrence, a spokeswoman for the college, said Dartmouth will share updated plans by early summer.

“The college particularly values and understands the unique role that Pine Park plays for both Hanover residents and members of our community and we are committed to collaborating on thoughtful improvements to this important resource,” she wrote.

Hanover’s budget for the next fiscal year, which will be up for a vote at Town Meeting, allocates $40,000 to Pine Park from the Bressett Fund. The $4 million fund provides the town with about $250,000 in interest each year, Town Manager Julia Griffin said. Ann Bressett, who was predeceased by her husband. Lou Bressett, owner of Lou’s Restaurant and Bakery and a longtime Hanover selectboard member, left the money to the town to improve the quality of life in the community, Griffin said.

“It’s a dynamic park that needs ongoing stewardship,” Griffin said. The town has also provided “sweat equity” for Pine Park for years, helping with its ongoing maintenance.

And that tradition continues — the town is redoing part of Rope Ferry Road in anticipation of the park improvements and installing a handicapped parking spot.

Claire Potter is a Report for America corps member. She can be reached at cpotter@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.

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