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Efforts to create Thompson Park dog park fall apart

in Local News 415 views

Plans to create a dog park in Thompson Park fell apart on Monday night after the City Council and the Dorsey Avenue resident who first proposed it 16 years ago disagreed on its location.

Council members were in support of the park’s master plan to create the dog park near the zoo.

But Scott S.G. Gates insisted that the dog park should be placed near the Gotham Street entrance to the park.

Councilman Cliff G. Olney III, who started working with Gates on the dog park several months ago, said Gates was not interested in getting the project done for the community but for his “own personal interests.”

The project fell apart because of that, Olney said.

“It’s his way or the highway,” Olney said.

On Monday night, council members unanimously defeated a resolution for Gates to oversee funding efforts for the dog park and to work with the Northern New York Community Foundation as a conduit for receiving donations.

City Manager Kenneth A. Mix said the only way the project can move forward now is if someone else comes forward to take over the fundraising efforts.

Two weeks ago, Gates stormed out of a council meeting after he became angry that he wasn’t allowed to continue to speak about the project during the public privilege of the floor. His 5-minute limit to address the council had elapsed.

On Monday night, he apologized that he “snapped” before going on to say that he “just wanted to do something for the community.”

He thinks that the dog park shouldn’t be located “in the busy side of the park vs. the non busy side of the park.”

The dog park project has been debated for years. It was the second time that it looked like the dog park was finally going to be a reality. Several years ago, he walked away from the project, again because of a disagreement over the location of the dog park.

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Mile of walking trails proposed for Thompson Park

in Place/Sports 243 views

The city has proposed adding more than a mile of paved trails in historic Thompson Park.

City Manager Kenneth A. Mix and Philip Sprague, chairman of Friends of Thompson Park, will make a presentation during Tuesday night’s work session about the paved trails that would cost $1,150,000 if all three proposed sections were completed.

All three trails are included in the park’s new master plan, Mix said.

“The need for the three trails have been discussed for a long time,” he said.

In July, the Friends of Thompson Park, a planning group for the park, discussed the three trails at its monthly meeting. Last week, the Friends adopted a resolution recommending that the trails be made a priority project.

This summer, council members appropriated $636,0000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds for Thompson Park priority projects.

Design work would occur over the next several months and construction is planned for next year, Mix said.

About half of the mile in new trails would be created at the Gotham Street entrance and run along the west entrance road, now called Joseph M. Butler Jr. Drive. The cost would be $550,000.

That trail would give park-goers a place to walk other than in the road, he said.

At a cost of $240,000, the next section would be about 1,525 feet long and connect with the Rotary Exercise trail, while the third section proposes 1,130 feet of paved trail running parallel to Overlook Drive. That section would cost $360,000.

“They would tie everything to the rest of the park,” he said. “They will result in the western portion of the park being tied to the northern, central, and eastern parts.”

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New skateboard park proposed for Watertown

in Entertainment 293 views

A group of skaters think it’s time to replace the 20-year-old skateboard park at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

Lifelong skater Ryan Starr said the 7,500-square-foot skateboard park is badly in need of repair.

He and five other riders attended a City Council work session on Monday night lobbying for a new park to be built.

Council members unanimously agreed to endorse the concept of a new skateboard park.

However, it will be up to skaters to raise money to build a new skateboard park, Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith said.

The sport is popular among young people who like it as recreation and use skateboards as a mode of transportation, Starr said.

“Teens and young adults are under served in the city,” he said.

The cost would depend on the size of the new skateboard park. They can cost as much as $1.25 million.

The city of Oswego just built one for $500,000, Starr said. Auburn is building one, too.

A bigger one would be a regional draw for skaters not only from Watertown, Starr said.

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Thompson Park’s giant golf ball has been returned

in Local News 155 views

The giant golf at the golf course in Thompson Park is back.

The golf ball sign was returned Tuesday afternoon.

“It wasn’t there when I went out and then I went out again, it was there,” golf course manager Jordan Northrop said.

For weeks, the missing golf ball was a thorny issue for some city officials. The ball was removed by former Watertown Golf Club owner Michael E. Lundy and then taken to Ives Hill Country Club on Flower Avenue West as an April Fool’s prank.

Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith wasn’t amused and threatened to have Mr. Lundy arrested.

But the golf ball was placed in the same spot at the city’s newly acquired golf course at about 3:40 p.m.

The city has renamed the 18-hole course the Thompson Park Golf Course.

The ball no longer has the Watertown Golf Club logo, It’s been painted over.

“No one saw it returned,” Mr. Northrop said. “Don’t know who brought it back.”

The city purchased the Watertown Golf Club for $3.4 million from Mr. Lundy in January. The purchase has been a political hot potato, mainly for its price.

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Council approves Spokes as clubhouse vendor for Thompson Park Golf Course

in Place 233 views

Plans to open the newly acquired golf course at Thompson Park got a major boost Monday night when the City Council finalized a deal for Spokes to run the facility’s clubhouse.

In a unanimous vote, council members approved a one-year agreement with the owner of Spokes Craft Beer and Tapas, the popular restaurant on Public Square, to serve food and beverages in the Thompson Park Golf Course’s clubhouse.

Spokes owner Jamie Danielson said that Spokes is just about ready to run the Thompson Park Golf Course clubhouse.

“This is the next big step,” she said about council’s action on Monday night. “We just want to get in there and make it over.”

According to the agreement, Spokes will pay $1 to run the clubhouse this season. Spokes was the only bidder.

Council members Sarah V. Compo Pierce, Lisa A. Ruggiero and Cliff G. Olney III said they are glad that Spokes is taking on the venture.

“Spokes has earned a reputation in the community,” Councilwoman Compo Pierce said.

The city still has a May 1 target date to open the Thompson Park Golf Course it purchased in January.

Golfers should learn in the next week about signing up to play at the golf course in the city’s historic park.

The city still has some major electrical repairs to complete before the clubhouse can be used. The electric system in the basement must be replaced. A quote came back indicating that the work will cost more than $35,000.

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Spirit Mountain, Which is Sacred to Tribes, is Designated a New National Monument

in Enviroment 294 views

Last week President Biden continued the bipartisan executive tradition of conserving historic and scientifically significant lands by designating Spirit Mountain—Avi Kwa Ame, in Nevada as a National Monument.

Sacred to several Native American tribes, principally the people of the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation, Spirit Mountain sits at the confluence of the Mojave and Sonoran deserts at the southernmost point of Nevada.

The designation covers 506,000 acres, one of the largest tracts of land to come under federal protection since Biden took office, and will conjoin with the existing Ireteba Peaks National Wilderness.

Last week President Biden continued the bipartisan executive tradition of conserving historic and scientifically significant lands by designating Spirit Mountain—Avi Kwa Ame, in Nevada as a National Monument.

Sacred to several Native American tribes, principally the people of the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation, Spirit Mountain sits at the confluence of the Mojave and Sonoran deserts at the southernmost point of Nevada.

The designation covers 506,000 acres, one of the largest tracts of land to come under federal protection since Biden took office, and will conjoin with the existing Ireteba Peaks National Wilderness.

Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, herself a native of the Pueblo peoples, held roundtable talks with the Mohave and other tribes in September of last year to discuss the need to conserve the area.

The slopes and flatlands around Avi Kwa Ame are dotted with important sites dating to modern Indian times but also back as far as the neolithic period. Rock Shelters, petroglyphs, and sacred sites will all be sheltered under the National Monument designation.

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City attracts one proposal for concessions at Thompson Park golf clubhouse

in Local News 152 views

The city on Thursday received one proposal from a local restaurant operator to run the clubhouse in the newly acquired former Watertown Golf Club.

Spokes Craft Beer and Tapas, the popular Public Square nightspot, was the only business to submit a proposal to operate the concessions at the clubhouse for the Thompson Park Golf Course.

Getting an operator for the clubhouse is considered one of the major needs to get the golf course open for this season.

The city will review the proposal and “discuss it with them,” City Manager Kenneth A. Mix said after receiving the proposal, adding that the city will “get in negotiations” before making a decision on the restaurant’s submission.

Spokes proposed paying an annual rate of $1 to run the clubhouse concessions.

City Council members had hoped that the revenues from the clubhouse would offset a $140,000 projected loss for this golf season.

Jamie Danielson, who purchased Spokes in December 2021, attended the bid opening in City Council’s third-floor chambers at City Hall on Thursday afternoon.

“We have a great staff with a lot of talent,” she said. “It will give our staff an opportunity to grow.”

Describing it as “a risk,” Ms. Danielson said she is aware of the controversy created by the city’s purchase of the former Watertown Golf Club for $3.4 million from Michael E. Lundy in recent months.

But the sometimes bitter debate didn’t stop her from putting in a proposal, she said, saying that she remains “impartial” and is confident that her staff is up for the task.

City purchasing manager Tina Bartlett-Bearup was surprised the city did not receive more proposals, since her office and the parks and recreation office received several calls from restaurant operators leading up to Thursday’s deadline.

The city’s purchasing department sent out information to more than 40 restaurants to get them interested in the venture. The vendor will be selected on March 20.

“She has a great proposal,” Ms. Bartlett-Bearup said of the Spokes proposal.

Mr. Mix shrugged his shoulders, saying he didn’t know whether the bad publicity and talk by Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith and others hurt the city’s chances of attracting other proposals.

It will take a little time to go through the proposal before the city would finalize a deal.

According to its proposal packet, the bar would be called “Spokes on the Green” and be open seven days a week.

Starting at 11 a.m., it would serve “grab and go breakfasts” and lunches during regular golf club hours, brunches on weekends in the event tent and an entree-style buffet on Friday evenings. The bar would serve Spokes’ craft beers and cocktails.

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Watertown gives funding for Thompson Park marketing efforts

in Local News 249 views

More people are finding out about historic Thompson Park, thanks to a marketing campaign that has produced more than 500,000 hits in Google searches since the fall of 2021.

The marketing program is designed to attract more people to the city-owned park. On Thursday, the Watertown Local Development Corporation, also known as the Watertown Trust, was given a progress report how an $80,000 grant had helped to get the message out about the park.

With last year’s $40,000 in funding and this year’s funds, Watertown Trust officials think that the marketing program is getting the outcome that they thought it would.

“It definitely shows significant interest,” said Watertown Trust CEO Donald W. Rutherford.

The folks at Zoo New York put together the marketing program. The city has never devoted a marketing campaign to the park.

The first year of the marketing campaign focused on gathering data on how many clicks the park receives on social media. The park also received 363,995 views on Instagram and has 499 followers on Facebook and reached 64,000 people since November 2021.

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These States Allow Visitors Free Off-Road Wheelchairs In Their Parks and Nature Areas

in Enviroment 277 views

Parks departments across the country are beginning to offer free all-terrain wheelchairs at their visitors centers for disabled people to explore their states’ treasures of nature.

Such programs have already cropped up in Colorado, Michigan, and South Dakota, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a National Park Service unit, has also added off-road wheelchairs to their park’s resources.

With some weighing 500 pounds or more, the motorized all-terrain wheelchair is like a Caterpillar but without the scoop and the cabin. The tracks can allow it to go up or over some serious obstacles, such as stumps, mud, snow, and more.

The first state to set the trend was Colorado, who started in 2017 with their Staunton State Park Track-Chair Program which provides free wheelchair access with the regular entrance fee.

Later the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources placed all-terrain wheelchairs in 12 of their state parks, boat launching sites, and trails.

Georgia and Minnesota recently joined this group, with the latter recently-wrapping up a pilot program that tested chairs in 5 parks, the Washington Post reports.

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U.S. State Park Unveils New Trail Made of Illegally Dumped Tires

in Place 448 views

Officials from Tennessee State Parks, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), and local leaders today cut the ribbon on a new hard-surface walking and biking trail in T.O. Fuller State Park that’s over 2.5 miles long—made from rubber crumbs derived from tires.

The tires had been illegally dumped in the area around the park, gathered by volunteers and local contractors, then transformed into crumbs by Patriot Tire Recycling in Bristol, the only facility in the state with the ability to recycle tires in such a way. It is one of the longest rubber-bearing trails in the U.S.

Once the tires were recycled into crumbs, the material was brought back to the park for construction of the trail.

The project, which began with collection in 2019, was funded by a Tire Environmental Act Program grant of $250,000, and near-equal amounts from other state department programs.

“This is a quintessential example of recycling in full circle, collecting dumped material then converting it into positive use,” said David Salyers, commissioner of TN Dept. of Environment and Conservation.

“It’s exactly the kind of responsible environmental activity Tennesseans can be proud of, where an area can be cleaned up then have people enjoy the benefits in a new way.”

The trail largely replaces worn cart paths from an old golf course, with new connections making for a modern loop trail design.

Workers cleaned up over 24,000 dumped tires, including passenger, commercial truck and heavy equipment tires. The cleanup had 450 registered volunteers and saw 10,000 tires collected in one day.

“TDOT spends more than $19 million annually picking up litter and educating the public about the negative impacts,” said TDOT Interim Commissioner Joseph Galbato, III. “We are thankful for collaborative partnerships like the ‘Tires to Trails’ project which not only addresses the litter problem but turns it into a meaningful and positive long-lasting resource for the community.”

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