Downtown Dover grew around the falls on the Cocheco River, where the mills could channel the current to produce world-famous calico and much more.
Below the falls and the dam atop them, tides from the Atlantic Ocean downstream rise and fall eight to ten feet every six hours or so. Boats from the ocean made their way the 14 miles upstream to pick up or deliver goods.
As pollution in the river has been cleaned up and the city itself become more of a center of the Seacoast Region, planners have been looking to develop an open stretch of unpaved parking lot and weeds across the water from downtown.
For years, the site was the public works yard – not the best use of potentially valuable real estate. That has since been relocated elsewhere. I’m guessing it was tannery and warehouses before that.
A proposal to build anew there fell through in the real estate collapse of the great recession at the end of the George W. Bush administration but now, a decade later, it’s emerging in new form.
Key to the design is the extension of Henry Law park along the river as a walkway with added attractions such as kayak and canoe landings. A hillside has already been carved back to allow moving an existing street away from the river to open the space for more pleasant picnicking or the strolling public.
Further on there will be room for new housing and small stores or offices. Done right, it should be quite welcoming and attractive.
Just as important, in my eyes, is the way this will open up access to an existing city park at the top of the hill. Rather than running into a dead end as it does now, Washington Street will rise up the slope to become the entrance to Maglaras Park. It will be an easy walk from downtown, rather than the convoluted route it’s replacing. Even for drivers, it’s a huge improvement.
The park, meanwhile, is undergoing a transformation. Part of the site is an old city landfill, long obstructed by hurricane fencing, as well as piles of ancient tanning hides. The city’s skateboard park is also being relocated here to make room for a relocated street below. There’s even talk of a new indoor-outdoor swimming pool complex.
And part of the site has 1,400 feet of shoreline at the bottom of steep slopes along the river. It’s not a bad place to watch eagles and ospreys and seals as well as pleasure craft passing by.
In our household, we like to talk about quality-of-life touches – especially the kind that make a community more civilized and pleasant. These developments as they’re unfolding certainly seem to fit the bill.
What examples can you share from your own community?