It was mid November, yet the air was warm. The sun danced in and out of the soft clouds. It was a perfect Lansing, November, fall day. And what was the O’Meara clan doing? We were sitting inside arguing and bickering with each other. Then I saw a family member post it; The Hawk Island Snow Park Inaugural Open House & Rail Jams hosted by Hawk Island Action Sports Operations Committee (HIASOC). Last winter when I decided to walk to all of my favorite sledding hills in Lansing (The Best Place to Sled, Angel Hill and the NorthSide Neighborhood and The Fourth Lansing Hill ) I was disappointed that Hawk Island was closed for reconstruction. I still listed it and waited anxiously for update information. Today’s news quickly got me moving. I loaded the family into the car and headed into town. To get in a walk, we parked at the end of Sunnyside and began our trek to one of the first Urban Snow Parks in the country.
Sunnyside runs parallel to Sycamore Creek Golf Course, which is now the only driving range in the area, mostly because the place floods like crazy every spring. It is a very majestic looking park with rolling hills and mature hard woods. Recently the Lansing River Trail was extended from Hawk Island through a path between this golfing area and Mt Hope Cemetery, connecting to the trail just south of the river. As we walked we could see bikers, runners and walkers enjoying this extended path. After stopping for a few photos we continued to the entrance to Scott’s Woods. This is the back way to Hawk Island. When I first started dating Pat (1989) he walked me down to this park. We explored the area using the multiple dirt trails to make our way to the lake there, the aircraft hangar and other significant sights. The woods had a notorious history but I was often in awe of the area. It has been amazing watching it transform into what it is today. There seemed to be more pedestrians out than I’ve noticed before. I thought it might be folks leaving the open house and that we had missed it. As we walked the left trail around the lake the new hill was visible through the trees. There was a small group up on top of the hill, so I had a small hope that we hadn’t missed all the festivities. However as we came up off the trail, it was evident that most of those present were the participants and hosts. We took a quick look around. There was still quite a lively atmosphere with music reverberating off the enormous
hill mountain and camera crews catching the stunts of experienced snow boarders showing their skills on a strip of ice with a rail at the bottom. We made a circuit of the activities; looked at the drawings for the end results and tried the practice snowboard. Ellie was quite good! Back at the hill many signs proclaimed that the hill was definitely closed; do not enter; keep off. I didn’t even dare ask if we could explore the top. So we headed out. As we were leaving, I passed someone I knew. And he knew me. We stopped to talk. I went to Otto and Eastern with Dwight Washington and we hadn’t seen each other since our 10 year reunion. I told him about the City Saunter Project I was doing and he asked if I would be interested in talking with someone in charge with this new venture. Um, YES!! He back tracked us to the base of the hill where I was introduced to Bob Ford with Landscape Architects & Planning the architect for this mountain adventure! I listened earnestly as he talked me through the process that allowed this new venture to become a reality. It seems,that having a really great idea and presenting it to the right people CAN produce something energetic, exciting and positive for the community! I loved hearing about the progress! However, as a mother of two 6 year olds (one of which had just put on a one woman show of angst and betrayal which included but was not limited to: crying, pouting, falling to the ground and crude facial expressions, because of our inability to get to the top of that new hill) what I really wanted to know was if it was possible for us to get to the top. Bob’s answer was, of course! He led us around the base of the hill, past the camera crews and snowboard practice strip, to a trodden trail straight to the top. As we hiked to the top, Bob explained that most of this hill’s materials had been donated through various local resources. It was his group that sculpted this multi-tiered sledding/tubing/snowboarding wonderland. They would continue to add to and form it until snow prohibited further work. At that point snow production would commence with the official opening date set for December 17, 2011. At the top I was also introduced to Pete Bosheff. Pete operates Urban Snow Parks LLC. I don’t think I am wrong to say this Urban Terrain Park is his brain child. I could tell from our conversation that he is passionate about bringing together those who can make his ideas come true. This obviously took a lot of cooperation between multiple groups; Ingham County Parks and Recreation, Modern Skate and Surf, just to name a few. But I saw a fire in Pete’s eye that showed a determination I hadn’t seen in a while. Both he and Bob talked about a commitment to get kids (and I would hope their parents) outside. They spoke of fizzled responses to great ideas; such as a crew team in Lansing schools. They talked about getting kids off the couch and outside and participating in something exciting. I have noticed an increase in movement in the Lansing area. I have more friends running than I have ever seen before. I have friends working hard to make Lansing a more pedestrian friendly city. As exciting as that is, it is still a scant number compared to the thousands that stay inside day in and day out. I hope that this new urban park, as well as the expansions of the river trail and bike lanes will motivate more people to get out and explore Lansing from the outside out. Bob’s quote to me and echoed by Dwight’s group is: No Child Left Inside. I like that. I hope everyone gets a chance this winter to try the new Hawk Island Snow Park. For those not into the snowboarding action, the area also has a sledding and tubing area as well!
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