City dog park proposal may get new life

A dog park project approved in 2014 for Factory Square Park became doomed after it became a political football. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — A proposal to create a dog park in Thompson Park might still come back to life despite an ongoing dispute with the Dorsey Street man who’s lobbied for the project for more than a dozen years.

On Monday night, Councilman Ryan Henry Wilkinson suggested that the city form an advisory committee to look into creating the project at Thompson Park.

The advisory committee would look at how much the dog park would cost, possible locations in the city-owned park, the mechanism for raising money and other aspects of the project.

But with a mayoral and council election two weeks away, Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr., who’s not running for reelection, said it was more appropriate for the next council to decide, since there might be two new council members in January.

City Manager Rick Finn agreed, saying that preliminary work on getting the advisory committee together could be still be done now.

“The next council will basically give direction at that point,” he said. “We’ll then be ready right off the bat.”

Monday night was the first time there’s been any movement on the dog park since council members agreed in April 2018 that the facility should be in Thompson Park.

An ongoing dispute with Scott S.G. Gates, who first proposed the dog park 13 years ago, stalled the project. The city stopped communicating with him after he threatened a lawsuit.

He was dissatisfied that the city wanted to use some of the money raised for the dog park for maintenance expenses. He also wasn’t pleased that the site of the dog park would not be near the Gotham Street entrance, his preference.

The two main sites under consideration are near the Thompson Park zoo and across from the overlook, Councilman Cody J. Horbacz said.

On Monday night, Mr. Gates urged city officials to work with him on the project.

“Let’s get over the past,” he said. “Let’s get over the crap. Let’s move forward.”

Councilman Horbacz said that Mr. Gates will probably be asked to be involved in the project.

But Councilwoman Sarah V. Compo said on Tuesday that she’s not sold on the idea of putting the dog park in Thompson Park. She would like to hear from dog owners about their thoughts where it should be and what they would like in a dog park.

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

For years, Mr. Gates attended many meetings expressing his desire to see a dog park built at Thompson Park. He strongly opposed building the dog park at Factory Square Park, a little-used green area near the Black River and in a commercial area of the city. In December 2014, council members chose that location over Thompson Park.

The project at Factory Square Park became doomed after it became a political football.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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