Sunday, January 20, 2008

teenage diplomats

In my hometown, there's this one hill. It's a grassy hill tucked into the middle of some woods. It's a really big hill. We called it the Ski Hill, because that was one of the things we could do there. We could also sled, toboggan, snowboard (yes, we had snowboards in the 70s). The surrounding woods provided good cross-country skiing trails. And there was a pond at the bottom of the hill where we would skate and play hockey.

Luckily, the town had the good sense to make a park of this little oasis in the trees. I knew every inch of the park well because, in addition to participating in all these activities, my Dad was the Parks & Recreation Director.

A lodge was built with a wrap-around deck outside and a fireplace, concession stand, and lots of couches and chairs inside. There was equipment rental, and the lower level had snow grooming and clearing equipment. The sound system was always playing music. For some reason, every time I hear the song "Blinded by the Light," I think of the ski lodge. In fact, I did most of my skiing around the age of 10, so that makes complete sense.

Playground equipment was installed at the edge of the woods so the park could be enjoyed in the "off" season. The annual Easter egg hunt took place here. But perhaps the most telling additions to the park were a tow rope and a massive wooden ski jump. In fact, at one point, it was the largest ski jump in the state. My oldest brother was the only one of us with the guts to actually climb up and jump off that thing. The best I could muster was to help heap snow in certain parts of the hill to make much more manageable jumps. There was also one section between the high hill and the mid-sized hill that was prone to moguls, which were also a lot of fun. To this day, my memories of time spent at the Ski Hill are all very fond.

As the 80s were drawing to a close, the litigious nature of the world eventually wrapped its claws around the park. Fearful of lawsuits should someone get hurt while playing, the insurance companies began charging ridiculously high premiums to provide the town with coverage. Little by little, they were forced to change things. The tow rope was removed. The ski jump was dismantled. My father retired, and it became a big hill with condominiums and office parks encroaching on all sides.

I drove over there the other night. It was empty. Granted, it was night, but there are still big lights that would allow for evening activities. I was the only soul around. There were four rows of hay bales mysteriously lined down the hill. And this sign caught my attention:

Rules for Winter Sliding

1. Anyone using the park for winter activities performs so at their own risk, in accordance to State of New Hampshire Recreational Use Statute RSA 508:14
2. Sledding and snowboarding are only permitted
3. Downhill skiing is not permitted
4. When a whistle or horn sounds, all activity must stop
5. Snowmobiles are not permitted
6. Do not move hay bails (sic)
7. Building jumps is not allowed
8. Walk up the hill in between the bails (sic) of hay
9. Upon completing a run downhill, exit to the sides as soon as possible
10. Plastic sleds and inflatable tubes are acceptable and permitted for use. Metal sleds and toboggans are not allowed.
11. Sledders must be in a sitting position at all times. Sliding headfirst is not allowed.
12. Sled down hill one at a time -- do not form chains
13. Snowboarders must be aware of sledders at all times
14. Do not leave children unattended
15. Please be alert and conscious of others on the hill
16. Please respect the authority of the personnel who enforce these rules and regulations
17. Not responsible for lost, stolen or damaged property
18. Animals are not permitted
19. Please follow the rules and regulations as specified
20. Have a safe and enjoyable time!

Please note: The town reserves the right to suspend any activity and remove any patrons from the facility if caught engaging in disruptive, destructive, unruly, dangerous, or illegal behavior. The town also reserves the right to enforce the above listed rules and regulations and has the authority to ask individuals who challenge or repeatedly violate the rules to vacate the park.
Sad. Half of the fun things that we could do there are gone, and they replace common sense with statutes, rules, and regulations. William Blake was right. Heavy sigh.

Song: "Far Away" by Ingrid Michaelson
Reading: Signs (of the times) at my old haunts
Other: One of our employees said to me yesterday, "Getting old isn't always fair"

Incredibly cool sledding picture above by Cat Scott.

1 comment:

kellycoxsemple said...
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