Look out, below! City plants trees in Ridge’s ‘Dead Man’s Hill’

Look out, below! City plants trees in Ridge’s ‘Dead Man’s Hill’
Photo by Bess Adler

Now, it’s really “Dead Man’s Hill”!

The city has planted trees at the bottom of a popular Bay Ridge sledding slope, turning the hill from a place for a fun day in the snow into an accident waiting to happen.

The trees were planted on the so-called Dead Man’s Hill in Owl’s Head Park, at Colonial Road and Wakeman Place, said Greg Ahl, a member of Community Board 10, who found out about them when he took his nieces to the park for sledding.

“I was surprised to see the new trees,” Ahl said, recalling a bit of local legend about one teen who was paralyzed decades ago after crashing into a tree on the famed suicide hill. “I never thought they would put new ones in over there. They are in a bad spot.”

How bad? The plastic protective fencing around the juvenile trees have already been crushed by sledders. And because the trees are still young, the branches are at the perfect height to injure tots.

“They’re right at the level of kids’ eyes,” said Ahl. “New trees are the worst thing for this hill.”

But not everyone agrees with Ahl.

“We are in desperate need of trees,” said Bernadette Hoban, the president of the Friends and Neighbors of Owl’s Head Park. “My plan is to have more trees, not less.”

Hoban added that her group asked for the trees to replace older trees that are dying, and to discourage adults who play soccer on the lawn.

The city seems to be on board with her plan, as seven new trees near the bottom of the hill are part of a group of 40 planted in the park as part of the city’s Million Trees initiative, said the Parks Department’s Brooklyn Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey.

Jeffrey added that the trees are not a danger to sledders.

“These trees were specifically clustered with other trees and a corridor was left open to accommodate sledding,” Jeffrey said. “In addition, the opposite side of the hill is open for visitors to enjoy sledding.”

Both Hoban and Ahl agree that there’s an easy fix — stationing a row of hay bales in front of the trees to protect sledders as they hurtle downward. A couple of bales were deployed on the day that Ahl was there with his nieces, but not enough to protect sledders, he said. And this weekend, the bales were gone.

Parks officials clearly know the value of the oasis’s steep hill, and even promote sledding there on the agency’s website: “Do you like long walks by the water? Sledding in the winter? We have the perfect match for you! No, this isn’t a personal ad; it’s Owl’s Head Park.”

Bay Ridge boarder Vitaly Bralgen, 14, now has to be careful on the famous “Dead Man’s Hill” now that the city has planted new trees at the bottom of the famed sledding run.
Photo by Bess Adler