Thompson dog park may finally come up for a vote

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WATERTOWN — Eleven years after first proposing it, Scott S.G. Gates may be getting a dog park in Thompson Park.

Last Monday, the Dorsey Street resident was told that the City Council plans to put forth a resolution to vote on the dog park, possibly as soon as the March 19 meeting.

Last Monday was the 11th anniversary of the day Mr. Gates first appeared at a council meeting to bring up the dog park proposal. It’s been a long road since then. For a long while, it didn’t look like the proposal had a chance.

Council members now seem to be poised to support the dog park in Thompson Park. Council members Lisa A. Ruggiero, Cody J. Horbacz and Ryan Henry-Wilkinson have indicated they would vote for a dog park in the city-owned park.

Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr. opposes the idea, but told council members last Monday that it was time to vote on the proposal. Councilman Mark C. Walczyk also is against it.

“So we don’t waste this man’s time anymore. We owe it to Mr. Gates for at least some finality on that,” Mayor Butler said.

Mr. Gates began his quest, hoping his dog, Mia Marie Bumblebee, would someday use the park.

The 13-year-old husky died in 2015.

Like he has for years, Mr. Gates attended the council meeting with his plans and a homemade poster in tow to again lobby for the dog park. He said he could have been raising money for the dog park for the past two months, instead of trying to convince council members to support it.

Councilwoman Ruggiero recently talked with Mr. Gates about the dog park.

“I see the value in it for the community,” Councilwoman Ruggiero said. “I think that this is something that the general public can use, not just city residents.”

On Sunday night, Councilman Horbacz said he’d support the dog park.

“Supporting it is step one,” he said, adding that many communities have had dog parks for years.

But he wants to make sure it won’t interfere with the Thompson Park Zoo, the Watertown Golf Club and the efforts of the Friends of Thompson Park before he totally commits to it. City staff should also find an exact spot for it, he said.

“The park is 355 acres,” he said. “The dog park would be two to four acres. There should be somewhere up there for it.”

The dog park became a thorny issue for the previous City Council after a battle erupted over its location at an under-used park in Factory Square.

The previous City Council selected Factory Square over historic Thompson Park despite the objection of Mr. Gates. Some city officials have called Mr. Gates a “polarizing figure” in the debate because he was relentless.

The $134,000 project at Factory Square Park became doomed after it became a political football.

Fundraising efforts fell apart after the project became mired in controversy.

Of the $80,000 needed, only about $3,500 was raised before a volunteer committee disbanded.

Mr. Gates said the Northern New York Community Foundation is still accepting donations for the dog park project.

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