So finally there’s a park where my license plate paid off – admission was free so I saved four bucks. Other than that, this park really brings up mixed feelings.
What’s here? Only a small corner of Silver Lake is actually state park. The rest is surrounded by private homes. There’s a sandy beach, although on the day I visited the sand had a foot-wide border of pollen – kind of like a bathtub ring – that discouraged most bathers, including myself. Back a little ways from the beach are plenty of picnic tables so this could really be a nice place for a hot summer day.
Although this is my 14th park visited so far, this was my first interaction with an actual park employee. The young woman manning the admissions booth (I’m guessing a teen summer job) was very upbeat and helpful. I was disappointed to learn that there was nothing else to be found here: no trails that she was aware of, no camping, just the beach and the picnic tables. The large bathhouses seem to be locked up, maybe permanently, with an array of port-a-potties lined up to handle the necessaries.
The park has the disadvantage of being bisected by Route 122, which means that you have to cross the road to get from the parking lot to the lake. Fortunately there isn’t much traffic. The parking lot is very large so I’m guessing there are a lot more visitors in mid-summer than I was seeing on this warm Saturday in June. On the map, it appears that the state owns quite a bit of land on the east side of the road (opposite the lake), extending almost a half mile to another pond (Dunklee Pond). I think it would be a good idea (and fairly easy) to build a small network of trails opening up that part of the park. However, the only thing I saw on this side was the “picnic table graveyard” of old, worn-out park property.
The thought that keeps running through my mind is this: what distinguishes this beach from the dozens of other town beaches in the state? And the only answer that I’m coming up with is the budget-conscious state government. Most towns, in my area at least, have their own town swimming area, sometimes a town pool but more often a lake with a small beach. They have picnic facilities, group facilities, sometimes sports facilities like tennis and volleyball courts, ball fields, and so on. Silver Lake State Park is really just the Hollis Town Beach, run by the State of New Hampshire. But because it’s paid for by the state, it’s a little more run-down than it should be, thanks to the state’s budget woes. More on this thought in a later blog.
On this same day, I had the pleasure of visiting Monson Center, a large and fascinating park and preserve (it’s the site of a former village) run by the Society For the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF), and located just a few miles away. It’s a new (acquired only in 1998) and largely unknown (and unspoiled) preserve featuring the remains of an entire village forgotten by time and reduced to stone walls and cellar holes. I would recommend it highly, not only for it’s extensive network of trails but also for the interpretive information about the homes and families who once lived there. The caretaker’s a gem, too! There’s nothing else like it in New Hampshire and, for that matter, in the entire Northeast.
So my final recommendation is this: take the family to see Monson Center. If it’s a hot day and the kids are dying to swim afterwards, head over to Silver Lake. Happy travels!
By the way, here’s a little idea that doesn’t cost much. Take a look at this beach further north in NH at the White Mountain National Forest South Pond recreation area. All they did was drag a groomer (basically a grate with some chains attached) through the sand.