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Rotary given green light for splash park

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WATERTOWN — The Watertown Noon Rotary club made a big splash at Monday night’s City Council meeting with an idea to create a spray park at Thompson Park.

The club received the blessing of the Watertown City Council to begin a fundraising campaign for a splash park at the city-owned historic park.

In March, Noon Rotary members promised to contribute $50,000 toward the project, which the council informally endorsed Monday.

After the meeting, the Rev. Frederick G. Garry, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, who is also president of the Rotary Club, said the fundraising campaign will start immediately.

The Rev. Mr. Garry said he believes the spray park will be “a significant asset” enjoyed by residents of all ages.

“I’ve never been to a spray park, but I like the idea of my grandson playing in it, and I wouldn’t have to jump in a pool,” he told council members.

He said the project would be a good way to commemorate the club’s centennial celebration. It might cost a little more than the donated $50,000 or several hundred thousand dollars, depending on its size and what is added to it, he said.

If public funding, grants and other money can be obtained, Rotary members hope to complete the project before the club’s 100th year ends, he said.

The group considered a handful of other park projects, including a permanent stage, before deciding the spray park was the best choice, he said.

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. The proposal now comes at a time when the city has decided to close the 90-year-old Thompson Park pool because it would cost as much as $850,000 to replace it.

“It’s almost like you’re a savior,” Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns said, adding it would take some pressure off City Council for closing the pool.

While he supports the spray park project, Councilman Joseph M. Butler Jr. said he has not given up on reopening the pool, a wish that the Rev. Mr. Garry echoed.

“We’re not intent on closing anything,” he said.

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.

Rotary Club members already have talked to the city’s Planning Department about the project. The city would decide the appropriate size of the spray park and where it would be located in Thompson Park, the Rev. Mr. Garry said.

The Rotary Club has had prior interest in Thompson Park, working with the city in 2009 to organize a fundraising campaign to add a picnic and multiuse pavilion near the entrance to the fitness trail, which the club had installed as part of its 75th anniversary in 1989. Last year, the group made improvements to the fitness trail, which was in disrepair because of neglect. 

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