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Dog park delayed; vandals choke Hordichok Park

In Cornelius there's more 'bow' than 'wow' in bringing facilities online


NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: RYAN LACKEY - Located at 425 N. 13th Ave., Hordichok was completely fenced-off from the public for two weeks following especially damaging vandalism. Both dogs and people will have the chance to enjoy brand new parks in Cornelius — eventually. An off-leash dog park and the recently opened Hordichok Park are the latest additions to the Cornelius parks program but both face significant difficulties.

Planned for the north end of Water Park at the corner of North Clark Street and North 18th Avenue, the off-leash dog area would be unique in Cornelius — and not just because it’s the only dog park.

Unlike Hordichok Park, which was funded by a $155,000 grant, and other parks, which cost thousands of dollars, the dog park’s costs are almost entirely covered by in-kind donations and volunteer work from Eagle Scouts such as Kyle Heine.

That makes the construction slower than usual. But “the city isn’t in a hurry,” said Public Works Director Mike Crowell. “We’re just ecstatic to have the park 99 percent donated.” Crowell hopes the park will open by the end of summer.

The idea for the off-leash area arose from a 2009 resident survey and planning began over a year ago. There’s still much to build, such as fences to keep the dogs in.

The Eagle Scouts have been especially helpful in fundraising for the fencing — a $10,000 undertaking, Crowell said. They’ll also help install the first portion of the fence on June 24 and 26. Eventually, the park infrastructure will include a kiosk, a bulletin board and an obstacle course for the dogs.

Former Parks Advisory Board member Jason Nicholson likes the idea of the park but is unhappy with the process. He says the park was pitched as a zero-cost project.

“I voted yes,” said Nicholson, “with great reservations, only because it was guaranteed there’d be no cost.”

The park was initially estimated as a $30,000 project but thanks to volunteers and in-kind donations, the city has spent only $300 (for irrigation) and Crowell doesn’t expect any costs beyond that.

But to Nicholson, even that $300 is a symptom of what he called a lack of “fiscal responsibility.” NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: RYAN LACKEY - Eagle Scout Kyle Heine adopted the off-leash area as his project, raising funds for the fencing. The off-leash area is across the north access road at Water Park, N. 18th Ave.

“Everyone wants to see this done now,” he said. “But there was supposed to be no financial impact on the city.”

At Hordichok Park (pronounced Horti-choke), the concern is not timelines or funding. The park is built and open —or was, until unexpectedly heavy vandalism forced a two-week closure.

All the city’s parks face some vandalism, said Parks Advisory Board Chairman Jay Larson, but it is usually limited to minor graffiti or littering. “Historically we’ve been very free of heavy vandalism,” he said.

At Hordichok, however, “We were picking up five gallons of trash every day,” said Crowell, who noted that fences were damaged and two planted saplings were stripped and killed.

So the city closed the park for two weeks, reopening it June 5. Since then the vandalism has been quieter. But Larson can’t understand why it occurred in the first place.

Hordichok is in an area of the city that previously had no parks, he said, and he thought the neighborhood would welcome it. “I honestly don’t know why someone would vandalize it.”

Crowell noted that police officers often stop to play basketball with youth at Hordichok and are well aware of the vandalism. But for now there are no plans for extra patrols or security cameras.

If it happens again, said Crowell, the park will close again, perhaps for a longer time. But he hopes it won’t come to that.

Thinking long-term, the board expects development of a large-scale recreational area in the subdivisions planned for the urban growth boundary expansion area in southeast Cornelius. The 138 acres will eventually hold 912 new homes, and the city plans to work with the developers to add a new community park, which could include sports fields, basketball courts and other recreational spaces. The park could be as large as 10 or 20 acres, though the official size and location have yet to be determined.

“It’s imperative to plan these things out,” said Larson. “It’s the responsibility of the developers and the city to work together for the needs of the community.”