In an effort to gain a better understanding of the history of the Thompson Park Aviary, Councilwoman Roxanne Burns has asked the City Clerk to do further research on the facts relating to the decision to build the stucture.
Recent assertions have been made that officials did not know what they were building. Indeed a 1978 news article did use the phrase "(bird house)" after the word 'aviary'....Presumably because readers at the time (1978) may not know what an aviary is.
City Council did indeed know what an aviary was and debated it extensively in that era as an effort was made to spruce up the aging,city-operated zoo. Shortly after the Aviary was built, the City Council accepted donation of new lion cubs, in what is now seen as a dubious effort to hang on to a facility under increasing criticism for its treatment of animals.
At the time of the Aviary debate, Mayor Karl Burns said the structure is more than a bird house and would be something to be proud of. "I don't think we can continue to allow the park to deteriorate," the Mayor said....He added failure to follow through with the project would threaten state aid for the facility. (Some things never change.)
An overview of the our zoo done by officials of the Utica Zoo, praised the Aviary as "remarkable","incredibly sturdy" and "flexible in its applications."
"The exhibit has the most exciting potential." the report added.
A decade later, with the Zoo in disarray and facing closure, another report quoted the then Park Superintendent Robert Reid as saying the structure is "totally useless" . He also said it was difficult to find birds that fit its design.
While Mr. Reid had no formal training in running a zoo, he was charged with keeping the facility afloat during a sad period of transition.
Fast forward two decades and the Zoo, under private supervision, is a different facility with indigenous species and by most accounts much more appropriate in its mission and operation.
A debate has flared anew over the Aviary, with some saying it is indeed useless and others (City Council) of the opinion the interesting-to-look-at structure is a part of the Park and should be made viable.
Council toured the facility and has expressed a desire to have a dialogue with the Thompson Park Conservancy about the Aviary's future use and what is needed to achieve it.
There are no votes on Council in favor of razing the structure. As a city-owned asset a majority vote of the body would be needed to demolish it.