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Thompson Park will mark ‘Watertown’s Area 51’


Maybe the truth is out there — at Thompson Park.

Sounding like an episode of “The X Files,” the city of Watertown has found a way to pay homage to Thompson Park’s connection to strange occurrences and disappearances that have been a part of city lore ever since the park opened in 1905.

On Oct. 18, the city will officially dedicate a sign marking “Watertown’s Area 51,” a reference to the secret Nevada military base called Area 51 where UFOs were rumored to have been kept.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said Thursday morning that he came up with the idea for the sign in the park after it was revealed in August that the code name for Area 51 was “Watertown,” called that for former CIA Director Allen W. Dulles, who was born in Watertown and spent the early years of his life here.

“It sort of gelled from there,” he said.

The military base also ended up in several of the plot lines of “The X Files,” the 1990s TV show that revolved around unexplained happenings.

The sign will be put up near a soon-to-be-refurbished Watertown Noon Rotary fitness trail between the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park and the Watertown Golf Club. The black and greenish signs will feature a rendition of an alien from outer space.

The fables around the site focus on a vortex, supposedly near the site of the fitness trail, that has been the talk of parkgoers and paranormal enthusiasts for years. Stories of unexplained disappearances, paranormal activities, strange apparitions and noises have gotten the attention of believers for decades, the mayor said.

“That’s the focal point for the vortex, if you will,” he said.

The event will coincide with work on the exercise trail, now made up of 17 broken and unrepairable stations and signs. Working with the city, the Rotary Club has raised money and received donations of materials to complete the $35,000 project, said Michael A. Lumbis, senior planner in the city’s Planning Department.

The 3-foot-wide stone trail soon will be converted into an 8-foot-wide paved trail that runs about 2,000 feet in the park. New fitness equipment will be installed.

The trail was constructed in 1989 with 17 wooden exercise stations as part of the club’s 75th anniversary. The city has maintained the area for more than two decades, but many conditions, including weather, have caused parts of the trail to deteriorate. Some stations are missing, while others are missing signs. Some signs are broken, and many stations are leaning.

A Halloween-type family event will be a part of the sign designation that night. The sign unveiling begins at 7 p.m. T-shirts with the alien featured on the sign will be sold. Refreshments and children’s activities will be available. Halloween treats also will be handed out to children.

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