Larry Stogner is honored with a landscaped garden in Durham’s Sandy Creek Park

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DURHAM, NC (WTVD) — Nestled inside Durham’s Sandy Creek Park is a new attraction that longtime ABC11 viewers will enjoy. It’s a place where those who watched Larry Stogner anchor the news on TV might see him as a regular guy, enjoying nature.

“When we got our puppies in 2006, he came here every day for 10 years,” said his widow, Bobbi Stogner. “It was a great park for the dogs, but it was also a great physical park. It’s been well kept and maintained for people to walk on. Trails that aren’t muddy.”

Larry himself helped clean up the park before ALS claimed his life in 2016. Now his familiar smile is on a sign that greets visitors as they stroll through historic Larry Stogner Park and Garden.

“It’s such a beautiful tribute to Larry. Before he walked into the newsroom every day, he used to come here,” ABC11 President and CEO Rob Elmore said. “And it remains so great to this day to come and exercise, to come and clear your head.”

“If Larry was here, he would be in tears of gratitude,” Bobbi Stogner said.

The sprawling, landscaped garden is especially loved by Larry’s friends, family and supporters who came to Sandy Creek Park for the garden’s grand opening on Saturday.

“Mr. Stogner’s legacy has reminded us of the power of parks and the role they play in our daily lives to improve our overall health and well-being,” Wade Walcutt of Durham Parks and Recreation told the crowd.

Organizers said they plan to open a trail and name it after Larry; but when that plan fell through, they pivoted and met with Durham Parks and Recreation to convert a section of the park that people couldn’t access into a historic grove. The program for Saturday’s dedication says:

“We raised just over $15,000 from friends, neighbors and other friends of Larry’s, including a friend and colleague of Larry’s at Disney/ABC who made a significant donation.”

Other funding has been made possible.

“Thanks to generous donations from our viewers. So getting the word out about what was happening here was important to us, and it’s so great to finally see it happen,” Elmore said.
“And the fact that it’s an ADA-accessible park, so those who come after it will have a place to feel comfortable and safe while enjoying the outdoors,” added Bobbi Stogner. “A place where physical challenges can find rest, a place where spiritual challenges can find peace and serenity.”

A friend of the Stogners described the area before the makeover as “sort of a dump”. The transformation is appreciated by those who saw it during the dedication of the garden.

“Obviously a lot has happened since this was a sewer plant,” said John Goebel of Friends of Sandy Creek Park. “I say this because where most of you are now, three years ago there was a huge, ugly tank.”

This tank is just a memory now, replaced by lush plants, shrubs and other features that invite you to spend time exploring or sit on a bench in the garden where you can relax and enjoying the view on a nice day.

“Thank you, from the bottom of my heart,” said Bobbi Stogner. “To all those who participated in the realization of this project!”

Support for improving Sandy Creek Park has also come from Keep Durham Beautiful, the Durham Parks Foundation and many hours of volunteer work. The garden is located inside the park at 3510 Sandy Creek Road in Durham.

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