Mayor Graham proposes reopening Watertown park to vehicles

Watertown Daily Times (NY), 2014-07-16

July 16 -- WATERTOWN -- Noting the difficulty to enter the small park, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said it's time to look at reopening the city-owned Veterans Memorial Riverwalk to vehicle traffic once again.

Closed for about a decade, the 21-year-old walkway, which overlooks the Black River , runs from Mill Street to Arch Street . In 2003, the city opened the walkway to vehicular traffic, only to close it about a year later, deeming it was unsafe.

Mayor Graham made his pitch for the idea to the Watertown City Council on Tuesday night. Council members seemed to be receptive to the idea. They intend to discuss the proposal at a future work session.

The city of Watertown would need to get permission from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to allow one-way vehicular traffic through the park, said Kenneth A. Mix , the city's planning and urban development coordinator.

Mr. Graham visited the park on Tuesday after Arch Street and Black River Parkway were reopened following completion of repairs to the 19th century archway that stands beneath the busy city thoroughfare. He noticed that the park, which includes benches and public restrooms, was isolated and did not seem to get much use.

"It's essentially a dead-end street and no one tends to use that park from what I can see," he said. "It's kind of a little bit foreboding to go in there because, of course, there's no traffic, it's hard to get in and you've got to park to walk in."

The Riverwalk park, which was constructed in 1993, was opened to one-way traffic almost 15 years ago through the efforts of former Mayor Joseph M. Butler . It was then closed soon after Mayor Butler left office.

Mayor Graham suggested that more people would go into the park if it was easier to enter. It would also cut down on vandalism and other nefarious activity, he said.

After hearing the proposal, Councilman Joseph M. Butler Jr ., the mayor's son, said residents have occasionally brought up the issue to him of reopening the park to vehicles.

"It's funny you mention that because I've had a few people in the last year or two mention why it wasn't open for traffic essentially in both directions," he said.

Mr. Mix said it might be difficult to reopen the walkway to two-way traffic because of its narrowness.

"It was barely a two-way when it was a street," Mr. Mix said, noting that the walkway is now used for bike and pedestrian traffic.

The park area is also used by patrons of Adirondack River Outfitters.


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