Temperatures are near the 90s this week, but one resident is exploring opening “Bellbrook Mountain” as a hill for snow tubing and sledding in the winter.
The idea is slowly winning support, believes Steve Kircher, a Centerville resident, whose family has owned the land in question for nearly half a century.
Kircher, a retired emergency-room physician, and two of his brothers have formed a limited liability company to build the business. A snow-tubing park is more likely to work than a “micro-ski resort,” he believes. He envisions a four-lane tubing hill that would support up to 1,000 visitors daily and no more than 200 visitors at one time.
His family has owned the nearly 100-acre property for 45 years, and the Kirchers have long enjoyed the area for private recreation. “It just lends itself to this,” Kircher said.
Kircher approached Bellbrook City Council with the idea last month, and council is generally favorable to the notion, although years of work are ahead, according to Melissa Dodd, Bellbrook city manager.
Neither Dodd nor Kircher see any operation opening before December 2022. “There are a lot of logistics that need to be worked out,” Dodd said.
Kircher is proposing the site on part of a former well field on the west side of South Main Street, an area remembered historically for its mineral springs, called sometimes “Magnetic Springs Ranch.”
The city requires a site plan for the business and a plan for sourcing water to make artificial snow, Dodd said. The business would be near what once was Sugar Creek Ski Hills, an attraction that faded away in the late 1980s.
Barry Tiffany, Sugarcreek Twp. administrator, who grew up skiing on Sugar Creek, imagines the idea might work. Generations of kids learned to ski at Sugar Creek Ski Hills, and he has fond memories of the place.
“It’s a neat concept,” he said.
The challenge with the previous attempt at operating a ski hill there wasn’t snow-making technology, Tiffany said. Though Ohio has four distinct seasons, winters here aren’t consistently cold and snowfall is uncertain.
“It was Mother Nature’s ability to keep it cold,” Tiffany said. “It was the mild winters.”
Kircher is confident, though, citing what he says are “average” temperatures from the past 20 years. “Man-made” snow is actually better for snow-tubing, he contends. Over three or four cold nights, a business can cover the hill with a few feet of snow and be set for a season of 30 to 60 or more days.
Kircher’s proposal will involve city-owned land, primarily for the site’s proposed parking lot and entrance. He is asking the city for about 14.5 acres leased for 200-space parking lot and access off Waynesville Road (South Main Street in Bellbrook).
Said Kircher: “We’re totally privately funded. We’re not asking for funds.”
“Bellbrook has a rich history of snow sports starting approximately 200 years ago, when they used to close Main Street, on North Main Street, and they would open it for sledding,” Kircher told council members at their June 10 meeting. “The library has documentation. The whole town would turn out for that.”
Kircher has the same name as Stephen Kircher, an executive with Boyne Resorts, a Michigan-based company that says it is the third largest mountain resort company in North America. That Kircher is acting as a consultant for the project, the local Kircher told council members.
“I’ll keep working on it until somebody says ‘No,’” Kircher said.
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