Since 1979, the city of Hickory has wanted to build a public park on a piece of picturesque land it owns on Lake Hickory.
But over the years, other priorities and tight budgets have gotten in the way, so only scattered kayakers and swimmers enjoy the spot on Cloninger Mill Road, despite “No Trespassing” signs.
Now city parks officials are taking another look at the 75-acre site.
A plan being considered would include a park, homes and businesses. The park, which would not include ball fields, would take up the bulk of the property.
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The city has hired a consultant to help it develop a site plan for the property. Officials will hold meetings to get the public's input.
The property sits at the corner of Cloninger Mill Road and N.C. 127 near the Alexander County line, and next to a city sewer treatment plant .
It hugs a lake cove and features large rock outcroppings, stands of old hardwood trees and a waterfall off Falling Creek. The Cloninger family once ran a grist mill on the creek there.
In 2003, city staff recommended a 16-acre commercial development for the property, along with a 4-acre home subdivision and a 55-acre park.
The city's parks commission approved the plan, and a developer made a proposal for a commercial project on the N.C. 127 end of the property.
But a tight budget that year nixed the hiring of a consultant for a site plan. The City Council then decided to hold off on the project, hoping the local economy, hit with factory closings, would improve, and a higher-end development proposal would come along.
Now, Assistant City Manager Warren Wood said the economy has picked up some, with increased sales and hotel tax revenues, among other indicators, and the time seems right to try the project again.
The city is spending about $28,000 for the site development, with $8,500 of that coming from Duke Energy because Duke controls next-door Lake Hickory.