City OKs COVID memorial at Thompson Park

BCA Architects and Engineers, Watertown, is working on a design for a memorial to honor the north country’s COVID-19 pandemic victims. Submitted illustration

WATERTOWN — The woman who has put together decorations for a small park on South Massey Street for years has received informal approval to create a COVID-19 memorial in Thompson Park.

The City Council on Monday night gave TenEyck Street resident Allison F. Gorham the go-ahead to create the memorial with a black granite base and circle of 4-inch-thick cobalt blue glass. It will be erected just east of the Rotary Pavilion and nestled among some white pines.

With Monday’s informal vote, Mrs. Gorham and her advisory committee can start raising money for the memorial.

She made a presentation on Monday night about the project before three council members gave her permission to proceed.

Mrs. Gorham said the memorial is needed to honor the people in the region who have died during the pandemic.

“We’ve received nothing but positive comments and feedback in discussions for the project,” she said. So far, 89 people in Jefferson County and 229 in the three-county region have died since April 2020.

The memorial would simply read “For those who we’ve lost during COVID-19.”

“I like the idea,” Councilman Ryan Henry-Wilkinson said.

The memorial will cost $37,000, but the advisory group has a goal of $80,000 it plans to raise through donors, community organizations, grants and possibly federal American Rescue Plan Act funding.

The funds would be used to purchase four benches and to create an account to pay for maintenance costs in the future.

BCA Architects and Engineers, Watertown, is working on the design of the memorial. It could be completed at the start of next summer. Donations must be sent to the Northern New York Community Foundation.

Council members had some reservations about that particular location, but after stopping to see it before the meeting they decided it was an appropriate location.

Councilman Leonard G. Spaziani opposed the project, saying he doesn’t believe the city’s historic park should have a memorial of any type. The park should only be for people to enjoy, he explained.

Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith was absent from the meeting.

In February, Mrs. Gorham put up a temporary COVID memorial in Clinton Park, the small city-owned park at Holcomb and South Massey streets, with the hopes of creating a permanent one in the city.

She’s been involved in beautification efforts in the city for a long time.

For the past 11 years, she’s decorated that South Massey Street park for Christmas, Halloween, Easter and other holidays.

Mrs. Gorham, with the help of her husband, Brett, has planned, and in some cases funded and actually constructed, many improvements and projects throughout the city, such as the gardens at Hospice and Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Community Garden and that small city park.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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