On Saturday, the community is invited to take a first look at a Yellowstone riverfront gift that’s been generations in the making.
The John H. Dover Memorial Park will open to the public with a 4-mile bike trail ride and a 3.4-mile run. Along those courses, participants will see the natural area that Dover wanted to spare from urban development when Billings was still a small city. It is a vision shared by his grandson, Jim Sindelar. Although Sindelar suffered a disabling stroke a few years ago, his children have brought his vision to fruition in partnership with the Yellowstone River Parks Association.
Along the way, many volunteers and donors put their sweat, cash and construction materials into creating a nature preserve on the northeast edge of Billings. Volunteers built walking paths of crushed limestone, weeded out invasive non-native plants and assisted with landscaping. Harvest Church volunteers spend two days last fall, giving the project a major boost toward its opening day.
John Henry Dover began farming on an island in the River in 1881 — before Billings was a city, before Montana was a state. He homesteaded a small acreage and began expanding his farm. As Billings Heights grew, Dover’s grandson, Jim Sindelar, bought more land.
“He didn’t want it developed,” Lisa Sindelar, one of Jim and Virginia Sindelar’s daughters, told The Gazette’s Brett French for a July 17 report.
The Sindelar family has gradually donated tracts of land to YRPA. Eventually, the donated park is expected to stretch across more than 670 acres along 2½ miles of Yellowstone River.
Last fall, YRPA President Darryl Wilson told a writer for Magic Magazine that the development of Dover Park had cost about $250,000 plus 2,000 to 3,000 hours of volunteer labor. To secure future funding, the YRPA was creating a foundation in collaboration with the Billings Community Foundation.
The long-range master plan developed by Land Design Inc. includes a large lake where a gravel mine, operated by Knife River Corporation, a construction materials subsidiary of Montana-Dakota Utilities, now exists.
In the past several months, YRPA spent more time and money to finish the trails, build a parking lot, construct toilets and erect signs.
Five Mile Creek winds through the part of the park opening Saturday. The 170-acre park is reached by following Mary Street east to Dover Road. It has been described as a place of serenity and peace. It is a great riverfront addition to lands open to the public near Montana’s largest city.
Lisa Sindelar said her father is a “steward of the Earth.” Thanks to that legacy, the Billings community will have a place to learn about and enjoy the natural beauty of the Yellowstone River. We congratulate YRPA and the Sindelar family for their amazing gifts. We call on all who enter this park to respect this land and the vision John H. Dover had when he started a conserving it two centuries ago.