Founders Park

February 20, 2018

After months of discussion and revising the conceptual design, members of the Kernersville Board of Aldermen are ready to transform the former School Tools site into a relaxing community park.
As you may recall, the former slate of aldermen reviewed an initial rendering of the park back in November that would have included a statue in the center of the park, rod iron fencing on the sides of the park that front Main and Mountain streets and benches throughout the area. It was going to have brick pavers, a 3D waterscape that dumped into a pond area and enhanced landscaping on multiple sides of the park. The rendering also included the option of adding a mural to the side of the existing building, which would have been completed by local artist Richard Hedgecock.
That group of Board members, which included former Kernersville Police Chief Neal Stockton, who filled a vacant seat for just a few months, loved the overall concept of the park but was on the fence about adding the mural for a variety of reasons, including a concern that it would make the park look too busy. Those Board members decided instead to table the decision about the mural until after the election so the newly seated Board could make the final decision. They knew there would be at least one new person joining the Board, and they didn’t want to make a final decision in case the new group felt differently about the mural.
As it turned out, the newly seated Board agreed with their former colleagues in their decision to not include the mural, but they did discuss the possibility of working with local artists to decorate the picnic tables at a later date. They said they like the idea of incorporating local artwork into the new park and thought this would be the perfect compromise. However, they would like for Kernersville Parks and Recreation Director Ernie Pages to further research their options and gain a better understanding about how to protect those images from vandalism and inclement weather.
“Board members have not ruled out the option of having local artists paint or otherwise decorate the various picnic tables that are going to be installed, but that is something that can be done at a later date,” Town Manager Curtis Swisher said. “The group is eager to get started, and our goal is to begin construction in April.”
“It will take us a few weeks to finish the construction documents, put the project out for bid and make our final selection, but I don’t think the project will take long once we get started,” added Pages, who just met with the architect on Thursday. “We know this is a tight deadline, but everyone is on the same page.”
Pages said the final rendering looks very similar to the November rendering, including the fencing, water feature and other aforementioned elements, but they did make minor changes to the landscaping. He said they decided to thin out some of the landscaping to create a more open look from all vantage points instead of having a solid row of trees on various sides of the park. The design team also widened some of the walkway to make room for circular picnic tables, moved the water feature closer to the corner of the park and plan to add stepping stones near the water feature so guests can grab a quick bite to eat at one of the downtown restaurants and relax by the water.
The more open concept will also give passersby a better view of the featured statue, Pages said. The statue is entitled the “Clockmaker Statue,” and Board members have decided to use the version of the statue that does not include the beard. Funding for the statue is being provided by the same community organizations and area businesses who donated money to install the three statues at the public safety memorial in Fourth of July Park.
Funding for the remaining section of the park is coming through grants from the State of North Carolina. Swisher explained that these grants have a combined value of $194,000 and will cover most of the expenses associated with the park. Swisher said the first grant was awarded in 2016 and was used to demolish the former School Tools building and to help purchase the building at the corner of the park that will be transformed into a public restroom. The second grant, which was awarded in the summer of 2017, is worth $100,000 and will be used to construct that bathroom and to install the various elements of the actual park.
Pages said the Town is trying to use that money as efficiently as possible. He said the bid application he sends out will, of course, include the site plan, rendering and list of design elements they want to include, but he also plans to list the bathroom project as an “additional alternative” to see what companies have to say about that. He believes that it might be cheaper to do that portion of the project as part of the main construction, but he will also send the bathroom out as a standalone bid for comparison sake.
“If people are already going to be at the site pouring concrete, adding power to the park and doing the other necessary work, I would think that cost sharing measures would be more efficient, but we will see what happens,” Pages said. “My goal is to use our grant money as effectively as possible.”
One other topic of discussion that took place Tuesday with regard to the new corner park involved a possible name for the park. Up to this point, the aldermen and Town staff have been referring to the new park as “Founders Park,” but the Board voted last Tuesday to change the name to “Founders Körner Park” in honor of the Town’s namesake.
Pages explained that the sign in the park will say “Founders Körner” but they are using the word park to reference the site in all printed materials to make sure people know what kind of destination it is.
“It was actually April Lancaster (manager of Fitz on Main) who suggested the name to Alderman Jenny Fulton, and we all agreed it was the right name,” said Dawn Morgan, Kernersville mayor. “It is going to be a beautiful park when it’s finished.”
“I think the new park will serve as a landmark and will be a great beautification piece for our downtown,” added Pages. “I think it’s a great use of that space, and I am really excited to see it come together.”
He continued.
“We’ve made a number of changes to the design in recent months, but I think the final version is a great compromise and will be something that citizens of all ages are able to enjoy.”
The park is expected to be finished by the end of June 2018, weather permitting.

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