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Thompson Park

Watertown gives funding for Thompson Park marketing efforts

in Local News 60 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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Jefferson, Lewis County locals walk for suicide awareness in Thompson Park Sunday

in Health/Local News/People 79 views

Oct. 9—WATERTOWN — At the very top of Thompson Park on Sunday, about 100 people walked in honor and remembrance of the friends, family, co-workers and strangers who have ended their own lives.

It was the 12th year that the Out of Darkness walk has been hosted in Watertown, led by the Greater Central New York Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Organized by that group’s area director, Karen J. Heisig, the walk is meant to memorialize those who have killed themselves, show support for those who have considered it and for the friends, family and colleagues of those who have died by suicide.

“We’re trying to raise, elevate the conversation, let people know that they aren’t alone, whether they’ve lost someone or they’re someone who struggles,” Ms. Heisig said. “We all have mental health challenges, and the more we talk about it, the more we can do about it.”

She said there are often misconceptions around suicide and its causes, and there are many people who would prefer not to discuss the topic whatsoever. But that can won’t help, she said.

“Talking about it does not cause suicide,” she said. “And not talking about it doesn’t prevent suicide. If we are talking about it, we open the door to someone to maybe reach out to a friend and discuss what they’re feeling.”

In the blustery, cool fall day, Ms. Heisig said the crowd wasn’t quite as large as they’ve seen in the past, but still represents a strong contingent of people from across Jefferson and Lewis Counties who want to bring mental health care into the limelight.

Speaking to the assembled crowd, Ms. Heisig said there’s hardly a person in the world who hasn’t been touched by suicide in some way, and there have been some encouraging steps forward in the national conversation about suicide lately.

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Mental health, suicide awareness walk planned for Oct. 9 at Thompson Park

in Health 88 views

WATERTOWN — A suicide awareness walk is scheduled on Oct. 9 to help shed light on mental health in the north country.

The Out of the Darkness walk will take place at Thompson Park and will be a walk of remembrance, hope and support.

“It’s a way to unite our communities and provide an opportunity to acknowledge the way in which suicide and mental health conditions have affected our lives and the lives of those we love and care about,” said Karen J. Heisig, area director for the Greater Central New York Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Ms. Heisig said suicide rates decreased in 2019 and 2020, the first time decreases were seen in almost 20 years.

She said the COVID-19 pandemic shined a spotlight on areas where services could be improved, such as the availability of telehealth.

The number of people who died by suicide in 2021 won’t be known until the end of this year. Ms. Heisig said these numbers are something to look out for.

“Sometimes after a natural disaster, the mental health piece follows a year or two later,” she said.

She said the impact of the pandemic as well as other national and global events have had a huge impact on people’s mental health, particularly anxiety and depression.

“There’s a lot to be done, and not enough resources out there,” she said. “The more we can approach this from a community perspective and look at it as, ‘Hey, you’re my friend and I recognize that you’re struggling, let’s have a conversation. How can I support you?’ That becomes key.”

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Master plan consultants spend a day in Thompson Park

in Place 77 views

WATERTOWN — On a sunny, warm day, four consultants walked about seven miles around Thompson Park as part of an effort to come up with a blueprint for the historic city-owned landmark.

Representatives of Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners PPLC spent the entire day on Wednesday at the park to see what it’s like and what it could be like in the future.

The firm was retained by the city to develop a master plan, the first update since 1985.

Michael A. Lumbis, the city’s planning and community development director, said the consultants got to see the park’s landscaping and amenities. They will come up with potential ideas for Thompson Park.

“I think they got a feel for the park,” he said.

In the morning, the consultants walked around the park. They also met for about 90 minutes with the Friends of Thompson Park and then got together with City Manager Kenneth A. Mix, planning department staff and members of the parks and recreation department. The consultants also continued their tour in the afternoon.

A master plan became a City Council goal in recent years while there have been increased discussions about adding amenities to the park.

The blueprint will help the city devise an overall plan for the park but also determine what kind of projects that the city should develop with $4.25 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding that it has appropriated for the green space.

The possible improvements include Thompson Park projects that have been talked about for years, but the city could not pursue without the use of its $22 million ARPA allocation.

The city would look at adding an ice rink and stage or bandstand, basketball courts, a skate park and disc golf courses in the park.

The Friends of Thompson Park was instrumental in creating the splash pad at the park four years ago. Two summers ago, the city opened a new pool at the park.

In recent years, volunteers have worked on improving the park’s trail system and the city spent $50,000 to hire a landscaping company to get rid of a lot of underbrush that took over several areas of the park.

But what comes next?

That’s what Starr Whitehouse will help decide.

Mr. Mix, who attended the entire all-day meeting with the consultant, said the city is shooting for next spring for a draft master plan. The city will use it to put together a list of priority projects that the should pursue with the ARPA funds.

The city would then have just two construction seasons to get them completed before an ARPA deadline, he said. Starr Whitehouse is expected to complete some drawings in the spring, he said.

The consultants also will conduct an inventory and analysis of the park, get input from the public and determine a final plan development for the study.

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Council hires consultant to develop Thompson Park plan

in Local News/Place 1,596 views

WATERTOWN — City Council took a first step on Monday night to come up with a blueprint for Thompson Park.

Council members approved a $135,000 contract with two consultants to come up with a master plan for Thompson Park.

Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners PPLC, New York City, and GYMO Architecture, Engineering & Land Surveying, Watertown, will work together to complete the study.

Before the vote, Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith said that Starr Whitehouse has experience working on other Olmsted parks, including Central Park in New York City.

The city-owned historic park was designed in the early 20th century by John and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed New York City’s Central Park and many other parks throughout the United States.

The consultants will conduct an inventory and analysis of the park, get input from the public and determine a final plan development for the study.

In recent years, the city has focused on enhancing and adding trails in the park and removing buckthorn, an invasive species that has gobbled up lawns in the historic city park for decades.

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Landscapers clear acres of overgrown, invasive plants to improve Thompson Park

in Enviroment/Place 260 views

WATERTOWN — Starting a more than weeklong project on Thursday, Brian R. Percy sat perched a couple of stories above the ground in Thompson Park operating a Prentice log loader.

The loader, fitted with a claw, grabbed pesky underbrush, picked it up and placed it in the back of a dump truck.

Back on the ground, another employee of B&R Tree Experts, Black River, maneuvered a Bobcat, equipped with a Fecon head on it, as it placed smaller debris in an industrial chipper. Two other employees with chain saws also helped out with the project.

Within three hours, the four B&R tree experts removed about an acre of European buckthorn, clearing out an area near the Gotham Street entrance that will be used by park-goers in the near future.

“We don’t mess around,” Mr. Percy said. “We get in and get out.”

Over the next week or so, the company will remove about 11 acres of buckthorn, an invasive species that has gobbled up lawns in the historic city park for decades.

It’s part of the city’s ongoing efforts to make the park “more accessible and more usable,” according to City Manager Kenneth A. Mix, the city’s resident Thompson Park expert.

After the work is done, Mr. Mix, who’s spearheading the improvements, envisions adding picnic tables to the cleared space or creating a disc golf course, an amenity that park enthusiasts have requested in recent years.

While the heavy equipment will remove gobs of buckthorn quickly, other park improvements began four years ago.

In 2018, volunteers and members of the Friends of Thompson Park, a group dedicated to the 355-acre park, started gathering one Saturday a month in the summer months and into the fall to work on Thompson Park’s trail system.

“They’ve done a lot of work,” Mr. Mix said.

Over the past 20 years, mountain bikers have created a series of trails around the park.

But many of the trails that snake around the park have been covered by the invasive species. Others have disappeared after years of neglect, Mr. Mix said.

The improvements began with volunteers using tools to remove brush by hand to widen trails, create new ones and reopen underutilized portions of the park.

They dragged out the debris, where it was picked up by public works crews and carted away.

Park enthusiasts were back at work on Saturday placing wood chips on some of those improved trails.

During the past few years, Walter Zabriskie, who has lived in Watertown for 40 years, has participated in about a half dozen of the Saturday volunteer efforts.

“We love the park,” he said. “We think it’s the best thing about Watertown.”

On a recent humid day, Mr. Mix took a reporter on a hike through a trail off West End Drive, near the Gotham Street entrance.

Across the road from the West End Drive Overlook, the trail entrance has been marked by logs on either side. The trail quickly narrows. Only one person can hike on it at a time.

It meanders past Goose Pond, a depressed water area on the left, and the Watertown Golf Club on the other side. It loops around and comes back out to the overlook.

“I know people who have lived here 30 years and don’t know this is here,” Mr. Mix said.

He’s hoping to change that with the ongoing improvements.

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Pride flag raised Saturday in Watertown

in Event/People 227 views

WATERTOWN — Hundreds gathered outside city hall to see the Pride flag raised Saturday in honor of Pride Month.

The flag-raising kicked off several Pride events throughout the day, including “Out in The Park” at Thompson Park from noon to 3 p.m., which had a beer tent, vendors, bounce houses, face painting, food and a color run. A traveling drag show arrived downtown Saturday night. Fireworks concluded the festivities at the Watertown Fairgrounds.

Jeff Cole, a member of Watertown Pride, was emcee at the flag-raising. Watertown joins Clayton, Alexandria Bay and Cape Vincent in the monthlong LGBTQ Pride celebration.

“We’re making this a regional Pride destination for people all over this country and Canada,” Mr. Cole said to the crowd. “We are doing it because of you. Your support is what keeps us going. Thank you to each and every single one of you. Happy Pride and we’ll see you up at the park.”

One of several speakers outside city hall was Owen Gilbo, an equal opportunity specialist with the state who came to represent Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul.

“I’m a very out and proud trans man,” Mr. Gilbo said. “I share that because there are those out there that think we don’t exist, there are those who wish we didn’t exist and there are those who just don’t understand. More importantly, I’m out because it’s important for people to see trans people and realize just who we are. We’re just human beings. Transgender identity is not my favorite identity. No. 1 identity is grandpa.”

He read a proclamation from the governor’s office, saying the state is honored to unveil the newly renovated Marsha P. Johnson State Park in Brooklyn, which is named after a transgender woman of color who helped lead LGBTQ activists during the Stonewall uprising of 1969 in Manhattan.

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City to hire contractor to work on Thompson Park trails

in People/Place 256 views

WATERTOWN — With spring just about here, it’s about that time for improvement work to begin again on the trail system in Thompson Park.

The city will look at a two-pronged approach this year.

In the past, volunteers have used tools to remove brush by hand to widen trails and reopen underutilized portions of the city-owned park.

The Friends of Thompson Park, a group of park enthusiasts, have overseen the work.

For the first time, the city plans to hire a contractor to do some of the work. On Monday night, the City Council informally agreed to set aside $50,000 for a contractor to bring in a specially equipped skid-steer loader, such as a Bobcat, to clean out the brush and crush the material into wood chips.

“You can get a lot more done,” City Manager Kenneth A. Mix said.

Last summer, GYMO Architecture, Engineering & Land Surveying lent a loader to do the work. A Black River company then removed the brush.

It came at a good time because he city had problems finding seasonal help to work in the park and on the trails, Mr. Mix said, so he thinks it is a better idea to bring in a contractor.

“We were impressed with what got done,” Mr. Mix said, adding that the loader is able to make the trails wider. “It was more efficient than doing by hand.”

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Watertown City Council eliminates Thompson Park parking lot

in Local News/Place 351 views

WATERTOWN — Park-goers and golfers will no longer be able to use a makeshift parking lot in an area of Thompson Park near the Watertown Golf Club.

After years of debate, the City Council passed an ordinance 3-1 Tuesday night to eliminate the overflow parking area, with Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith defending that it should remain in existence.

Councilor Sarah V. Compo Pierce was absent from the meeting.

The ordinance deletes the gravel area from the city code’s list of designated parking areas for Thompson Park.

The parking area has been a source of debate for years and a subject of a lawsuit before the latest round of “Golf Gate” came up.

The vote came up on Tuesday night after council members erroneously failed to take a final vote two weeks ago on an environmental study related to eliminating the parking lot.

Mayor Smith and Councilors Lisa A. Ruggiero and Cliff G. Olney III debated the issue again for 40 minutes on Tuesday night.

The two council members argued over golfers primarily using the lot and the Watertown Golf Club getting preferential treatment.

Meanwhile, Mayor Smith contended that there has been no conspiracy to allow the golf club to use the area for parking, adding that “nobody cares about which blade of grass up there somebody’s parking on.”

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City Council revisiting proposed dog park at Thompson Park

in Animals/Place 342 views

WATERTOWN — Six years after his dog died and 15 years after he first proposed the idea, S.G. Gates might get his wish of a dog park in Thompson Park.

City Council members are again discussing whether they should follow through with Mr. Gates’ longtime lobbying efforts of putting a dog park in Thompson Park.

“I’m very, very cautiously optimistic,” Mr. Gates said Tuesday. “It would be a wonderful asset for the community.”

Mr. Gates began his quest, hoping his dog Mia Marie Bumblebee would someday use the park. The 13-year-old husky died in 2015.

He’s willing to answer any questions that council members might have about the project, noting that Fort Drum, Plattsburgh and many other communities have dog parks.

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