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Tuesday, 16 May 2017 16:30

PARC states its case; beach opens this weekend

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Beach-goers last season at Ramsey Creek Park. Beach-goers last season at Ramsey Creek Park. File

CORNELIUS, N.C. — Scott Higgins had heard enough.

As the chairman of the Cornelius PARC Commission watched Troy Fitzsimmons, the town’s PARC director, make his budget season presentation of department needs to Cornelius commissioners during their pre-meeting session Monday night, he saw slide after slide of how the town lags behind other comparable municipalities in many areas.

And although it really wasn’t news to him, he saw that the capital improvement plan for the department for 2015-2025 has so far fallen $3 million per year short of the $6.2 million goal for the development of new facilities. But it was the $300,000 Fitzsimmons told commissioners he needs for maintenance and repairs — and his insistence that it costs more for the town to not fund repairs today than it would in future years — that got Higgins out of his chair.

“If you approve a capital project, you’d better be responsible enough to pay for the maintenance,” Higgins admonished the commissioners. “It’s a safety issue, and to not appropriate the funds of at least $80,000 to $100,000 this year for maintenance of these facilities I think is asinine.”

Fitzsimmons was a bit more diplomatic in his delivery. “We’re losing money because we’re waiting on something to be broken before we fix it,” Fitzsimmons said.

The maintenance list includes $20,000 for athletic turf renovations; $45,000 for softball and baseball infield renovations to improve drainage; $60,000 for landscape and lawn renovations, especially in park areas where there is no irrigation; $10,000 to remove hazard trees; $15,000 for forest management: $6,000 for painting and staining some covered areas; $10,000 for lighting repairs; $16,000 for court resurfacing; $6,000 for pond management; $100,000 for parking area paving and striping; and $10,000 for miscellaneous fixes.

Never mind, he went on to tell the board, the capital needed to acquire additional park land before it becomes too expensive to add to the town’s inventory.

Commissioner Dave Gilroy asked Fitzsimmons if he has identified potential sites for new parks. “Yes, if we do it in the very near future,” Fitzsimmons said. “If we wait five or 10 years down the road, all that land will be developed.”

Commissioner Jim Duke, who has long advocated for more funding of the PARC Department, succinctly crystallized his sentiments. “This is a wake-up call,” he said.

Beach opens

Greg Clemmer says it will be a “shakedown cruise” when Mecklenburg County’s only swim beach opens operations at Ramsey Creek Park for the season this weekend. The Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation park supervisor laid out details for improvements to swim beach operations this year, among them opening the park prior to Memorial Day weekend in order to work out some of the kinks before the season’s largest crowd is anticipated.

Residents along Nantz Road remain concerned about the park’s operation during swim beach season, which last year, in the early going, choked traffic into and out of the park and along their street, saw beach-goers parking in their yards and creating a general nuisance. The operation was continually refined last year, but just how much of the improvements realized were due to operational changes or because the crowds dwindled over the 13-week run is subject to scrutiny.

The recent completion of a long-awaited traffic signal at the intersection of Nantz Road and West Catawba Avenue is hoped to help control traffic near the park’s entrance, but the full compliment of Cornelius police officers will be on hand, at least at the beginning, to monitor and, if necessary, control traffic. The officers are paid by Mecklenburg County.

The Charlotte Area Transit System will shuttle beach-goers from the Park n Ride lot at NorthCross Shopping Center in Huntersville, at least until a new such lot opens off West Catawba Avenue in Cornelius. And the Cornelius Police Department has installed cameras at the beach to monitor activities there.

Beach hours this weekend will be 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. A full calendar of beach hours is available on the Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation website at charmeck.org.

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