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Thompson Park zoo pavilion project to start soon

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Supporters saw the old aviary at the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park as an iconic structure that should be saved forever. Others believe the large A-framed structure had outlived its usefulness.

And soon the aviary will be coming down to make way for the $255,000 project to erect a pavilion in its place.

Zoo and city officials met on Tuesday with a representative of D.E.W. Builders, Adams Center, to discuss the upcoming project.

Although he could not give an exact date when demolition will begin, City Engineer Kurt W. Hauk said afterward that work should start in the next several weeks.

For Zoo Executive Director John T. Wright, it was good to hear that the vacant 30-year-old structure will soon be gone, adding he will be glad to be “done and over it.”

It was nearly four years ago that the Thompson Park Conservancy, the group that runs the zoo, first approached the city about tearing down the aviary.

Dean E. Widrick, president of D.E.W. Builders, said it should take less than a week to demolish the aviary, but he could not say when the pavilion project would be completed. Zoo officials stressed that the project should not interfere with zoo operations nor any special events planned for the spring.

The city will honor the late Mayor Karl R. Burns by naming the pavilion after him.

Board President Robert D. Gorman, the Watertown Daily Times managing editor, said he and other zoo officials learned during the pre-construction meeting that the city wants to put up a sign signifying the commemoration on the pavilion’s entrance and have it installed before the building opens later this year.

“We’ve been waiting for four years, so I guess we can wait a few days for a sign,” he said.

The project has gone through a series of major changes during the past four years. Last summer, the council scrapped an indoor educational facility because its projected cost had risen to more than $1 million.

The contractor will supply the city with a pre-engineered, 50-by-50-foot cross-shaped metal pavilion. The pavilion will be similar to the one installed last year at the J.B. Wise parking lot north of Public Square.

The zoo project will include landscaping and an audiovisual system and a wall to accommodate that system. The pavilion will be used for events such as classes, presentations and private parties.

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