Cornelius’ Robbins Park is more than just a place where adults can play softball or tennis, or kids can ride on a swing.
Since the opening of Phase I in September 2011 and Phase II in April, the park is also becoming one of the Lake Norman area’s nature preserves, with walking trails and fishing ponds.
The latest step in that transformation came Oct. 22, when officials with Cornelius’ Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture (PARC) Department and the Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists (LNWC) unveiled an interpretive sign on the fishing pier of Robbins Park’s south pond.
“We’ve been collaborating over the years on various wildlife habitat improvements out there at Robbins Park,” said PARC Department director Troy Fitzsimmons. “It’s a ‘symbiotic relationship,’ so to speak.
“We collaborated with the LNWC at our LaketoberFest (held at Bailey Park on Oct. 17). They provided the beer sales there, and the proceeds went to the LNWC. In return, they end up putting a good share of that funding back into Robbins Park.”
The sign – donated by the Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists, which has its hand in the park’s nature preserve program – shows illustrations of the various bird, fish and insects people may find at the pond.
“We’ve been working towards this for about a year,” said Sid Smith, who has been in charge of many of the LNWC’s projects at Robbins Park. “From the beginning, (PARC) wanted to turn the park into a nature preserve, and they asked (LNWC) to come up with ideas.”
The idea for the interpretive sign actually came about two years ago, when Smith visited the Santa Barbara, Calif., Botanic Garden and saw signs pointing out the different species of plants and flowers.
“I saw this sign there about life in a pond,” Smith said. “At the same time, we had been working with Troy and Dr. Mike Dorcas and the folks at Davidson relocating some turtles so they could rebuild the two ponds at Robbins Park.
“Those ponds were kinda on my mind, and I thought ‘that would be really nice to put at Robbins Park.’”
A few months later, Smith was at Huntersville’s Latta Plantation, and saw the park’s interpretive signs created by David Williams, a Virginia-based artist who specializes in outdoors and wildlife subjects.
“There’s one trail there called the Buzzard Rock Trail, and there’s a sign on the overlook that was made by David,” Smith said. “I asked the rangers at the visitor’s center about the sign, then called (Williams).
“I thought we should see what we could do about making the signs so we can make the park itself as much of a classroom as anything else. David is extremely experienced at doing things like that. We came up with the idea for the sign, came up with a price and I took it to the (LNWC) board.”
The interpretative sign is not the first project between PARC and LNWC at Robbins Park. The two groups came up with the park’s butterfly garden, which features native wildflowers to attract butterflys and bees.
“We’ve also put up fishing line receptacles, where discarded fishing line can be disposed of properly,” Fitzsimmons said. “We’ve also built brown nut hatch boxes and wood duck boxes, they’ve removed some invasive bamboo plants, they’ve built some nature trails and even put up some tree identification markets.”
Fitzsimmons doesn’t expect the partnership to end anytime soon, considering how beneficial it’s been for the park.
“We have no sort of natural resource or environmental science expertise on staff, and these folks really know the Lake Norman environment very well,” Fitzsimmons said.
“They work very hard at being good stewards of the Lake Norman area. They’ve kind of adopted Robbins Park as part of that, in trying to help improve the natural environment around the park.”
Bill Kiser is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.