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Rotary Club proposes $50,000 contribution for Thompson Park spray park

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To celebrate its 100th anniversary this year, the Watertown Noon Rotary would like to contribute $50,000 to the city of Watertown to go toward a splash park at historic Thompson Park.

With the plans still in the early stages, representatives of the Watertown Noon Rotary approached city officials about a month ago to talk about their proposal, said the Rev. Frederick G. Garry, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, who is also a Rotary member.

The group intends “to reach out” soon to talk to the Watertown City Council to “see whether it would be a good idea,” he said Friday.

Over the years, the city has talked about adding a splash park, an array of spray features surrounded by a non-slip surface, at Thompson Park, but the idea never went anywhere.

“We’re one of the oldest clubs and we wanted to do something to celebrate our anniversary,” the Rev. Mr. Garry said, adding he hopes the project could be completed within the next year or so.

Three years ago, Department of Public Works Superintendent Eugene P. Hayes worked with a Syracuse consultant to look into how much a spray park would cost since the firm was conducting a study on how the city’s three pools should be repaired. Council members decided its $250,000 to $450,000 price tag was too high.

But the Rev. Mr. Garry said the group’s initial projection is closer to “the low 100,000” range.

Contacted Friday, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said he had heard just earlier in the day about the Rotary Club’s proposal, calling it “not a bad idea.” He said he looks forward to talking to Rotary officials.

“I’m anxious to work with them,” the mayor said.

At some point, the city will have to decide whether to replace the 90-year-old pool at Thompson Park. In 2012, council members held off spending $650,000 to replace the aging pool. The city also has pools at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds on Coffeen Street and at North Elementary School on East Division Street, which were upgraded this past year at a cost of $115,400.

With the proposal, Mr. Graham said now may be the time to look at whether the city should operate just two pools.

The Rotary Club has had prior interest in Thompson Park, first working with the city in 2009 to organize a fundraising campaign to add a picnic and multiuse pavilion near the fitness trail’s entrance. Last year, the group made improvements to the 20-year-old fitness trail that was in disrepair because of neglect.

On Friday, the Rev. Mr. Garry said the Rotary Club would like to form a group to put together a master plan for the historic Frederick Law Olmsted-designed park, where the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park also is located.

The group initially came up with a handful of other park projects, including a permanent stage, before deciding that the spray park was the best choice, he said.

Kenneth A. Mix, the city’s planning and community development coordinator, said the city also looked at installing a splash park at Thompson Park in the early 1990s. He suggested the next step is discussing the proposal with council members.

Besides Mr. Mix, Rotary officials met with Erin E. Gardner, parks and recreation superintendent, and senior planner Michael A. Lumbis.

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