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Originally published Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Grays Harbor man building park to honor Kurt Cobain

Tori Kovach would rather listen to Elvis, but he feels connected to the famous native son, so he's building a park in Cobain's honor.

The Daily World

ABERDEEN — It may seem incongruous that an "old geezer" like Tori Kovach (a description provided by his friend Denny Jackson) would build a park commemorating Grays Harbor's most famous native son, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain.

But even though he'd rather listen to Elvis, Kovach insists he and Cobain share common ground.

"Aspects of his life resonate with me because I was from a broken home," Kovach said, "but he went on to become a rock star, and I went on to become a welder."

Kovach, a lifelong Harborite, undertook the project to carve the park out of a half-acre of overgrown blackberry brambles, piles of garbage and decades of neglect almost by accident six years ago, shortly after moving into the house next door in Aberdeen.

At first, Kovach simply wanted to make the place less of an eyesore. But he learned that Young Street Bridge, where Market Street curves on its way to Fern Hill Cemetery, is where Cobain used to retreat as a teen, allegedly even living there for periods.

Nirvana fans even make pilgrimages to the bridge. Their journeys were all the more amazing to him because they had to pick their way down a steep path overgrown with prickly bushes.

"There was a couple from Italy," Kovach said. "There are bands that hold concerts down here."

Kovach said he's heard the song "Something In The Way," which is quoted on a new sign at the park, and while he said no one can be sure Cobain really lived under the bridge, Cobain did grow up a few blocks away.

Amazed by the graffiti underneath the bridge, in languages from all over the world, Kovach was inspired to install a sign on a truss under the bridge to commemorate the spot several years ago.

But creating a park quickly took on more significance for Kovach. For years, he has been after local governments, telling them in no uncertain terms to change.

"I asked myself, 'How's that working for you?' " he said. "I decided I couldn't rescue the city, but I could do something about this piece of it."

Perhaps Kovach felt a kinship with Cobain in his quest to create the park in this way, as well: Despite gaining worldwide acclaim and still fostering interest in Aberdeen 14 years after his death, Cobain was as unsuccessful in getting recognized by the city he grew up in as Kovach was for his less-renowned efforts.

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"He did amazing things, and he was from this town," Jackson said. How, he wondered, could the city not recognize such a prominent native son?

The park could not have come to fruition without Kovach's work to pull out the blackberry bushes, or his ability to find people to donate park furniture and labor. Kovach praised several local businesses for pitching in — Image Signs for printing the park's double-sided sign, mounted on old shelving Kovach salvaged; Jackson's powder-coating business for painting the benches, and the city of Aberdeen for grading the land. Kovach said Councilwoman Kathi Hoder was particularly helpful in securing help building the park from the city.

The park's land belongs to the city, but Kovach has promised to maintain the park once the land has been graded. He has been out there with his mower before, and he'll do it again. He's even talking about planting ferns or flowers to make the park more attractive and stabilize the soil.

Kovach also wants to install a floating dock for canoeists and kayakers. He said he is applying for a permit to the state Department of Fish & Wildlife and hopes local boaters will help raise the money to make it a reality.

Kovach looked out over the quiet piece of the Wishkah River, which winds quietly through old pilings and beneath grassy banks.

"I've lived here all my life, and I've seen it go from boom to bust," Kovach mused. "I hope to see its resurgence, but I doubt I'll live long enough."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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