Watertown to offer cross-country skiing at Thompson Park

Nov. 10—WATERTOWN — For years, city officials have talked about making Thompson Park more of a place for outdoor activities all-year around.

And just as soon as the park has new fallen snow, the city's Parks and Recreation Department will be offering cross-country skis and snow-shoes for rent in the historic city park.

"I'm really excited that more people will be coming out for new activities during the winter," Parks and Recreation Superintendent Scott M. Weller said.

His department purchased about 30 pairs of cross-country skis, boots, poles and snowshoes that will be rented out from the Thompson Park pool's bathhouse. It also purchased a groomer to create trails, mostly within the Thompson Park Golf Course.

"We've got everything we need and are now waiting for snow," he said.

The rentals will be offered from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., before it gets dark.

The rental fees are: $7 for city residents and $10 a day for non-city residents for cross-country skis and boots; and $5 a day for snowshoes for all residents. The City Council set the fees at Monday night's meeting.

Brian Ashley, vice president of The Friends of Thompson Park, said the winter activities will encourage more people to go to the park.

"We want Thompson Park to be a 12-month park," he said.

The news of the winter activities comes at a time when the city is planning to make some other improvements to the park.

On Monday night, council members retained GYMO, D.P.C. to complete the design of a roof for the park bandstand and some new hiking trails.

The Friends of Thompson Park are spearheading the bandstand project. The group is raising money for the project.

In August, City Council agreed to contribute $50,000. The family of former Watertown Mayor T. Urling Walker and the Northern New York Community Foundation have each contributed $25,000 challenge grants, leaving another $50,000 to raise.

The Friends have also started seeking money from individual donors.

The goal of the fund-raising efforts is $150,000. GYMO will be paid $23,400 to design the roof.

Construction is slated to start in the spring and be ready for concerts this summer.

The city also plans to create a new hiking trail using $636,000 in remaining American Rescue Plan Act funding.

The trail would run from the Rotary Trail to Gotham Street. It will connect with other trails on the western side of the park and run alongside the road.

GYMO will be paid $52,700 to design the trail, which will be completed next spring.

The city also plans to spend $50,000 to clear more brush in the park, matched with a $50,000 state grant. It's the latest park beautification efforts that the city began three years ago.

On Saturday, a group of volunteers joined for their monthly effort to improve parks trails. It was the last one of the year, Ashley said.