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Bjork park approved by city council

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Naming one parcel of Oswegatchie River waterfront in memory of an Ogdensburg man won an emotional approval of the city council Monday night.

The councilors voted 7-0 to name the east shore landscaped approach to the Lake Street pedestrian bridge and the nearby walled section of the Maple City Trail to the south the Robert R. Bjork Park.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said a tearful Tammy L. Harradine, Mr. Bjork’s daughter.

Mr. Bjork, a charter member of the city’s Pride and Beautification Commission, died in November 2010 at age 73. He created the Maple City Memorial Wall and garden on the downtown side of the span before its publicly-donated trees, flowers and shrubs were uprooted to make way for the bridge’s construction.

The garden was created as a memorial to Mr. Bjork’s grandson, Mrs. Harradine’s son.

The resolution was tabled last month because it is the city historical commission’s responsibility to name special sites. The group agreed to the Bjork memorial at its Aug. 22 meeting.

Mayor William D. Nelson, Deputy Mayor Michael D. Morley and councilors R. Storm Cilley, Wayne L. Ashley, William D. Hosmer, Jennifer Stevenson and Daniel E. Skamperle were unanimous in their support.

But Mr. Ashley was prepared to vote no, saying too many “unsung” city residents who have done similar good deeds around the city would be unfairly overlooked.

“I think that naming a park after one person is too much,” Mr. Ashley. “I’d be opposed to it if it was (named for) Barack Obama.”

But he changed his mind as the other lawmakers weighed in warmly about Mr. Bjork.

“It’s unique,” Ms. Stevenson said of the park concept. “I think it’s a fitting tribute to him.”

Mr. Nelson said the city “dropped the ball” in looking after the plaque-laden Maple City Memorial Wall and garden after Mr. Bjork fell too ill to do it.

“It was an area of pride,” the mayor said.

Mr. Cilley called the dismantling of plaques - which may be put back - “disgraceful.”

Mrs. Harradine said her father would be proud now.

“He didn’t do it for himself,” she said. “He did it for others. And it grew into a community.”

The city is using $50,000 left over from a $1.4 million New York State Dormitory Authority grant used to build the Lake Street pedestrian bridge last year to landscape the span’s two approaches. Work has begun with crews from the city’s parks and recreation and public works departments in charge.

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