The grand opening of “a perfect memorial”

TORRINGTON – On a dreary Saturday, Michael Thompson and Holly Hatley officially welcomed community members to the Candy Thompson Memorial Dog Park – a project that took nearly three years to be approved and completed.

“We started and finished on a dreary day,” Thompson said, referencing a previous article in The Telegram on the memorial.

The grand opening

At 1 p.m. on May 22nd, Thompson and Hatley thanked several community members for their support on the project. After the ceremonial ribbon was but by Candy’s grandchildren, energetic dogs played with one another and tested out the park’s agility equipment. Hot dogs, chips and drinks were provided, and the Bee Chilled Ice Cream Truck made an appearance.

“The grand opening was awesome. We were just thrilled,” said Hatley.

The new park, which is located on East G Street, in Jirdon Park, features three different fenced in areas – one for group play, one for training and agility and another for timid dogs.

Hatley welcomed the attendees and thanked them for coming. She said the first step was taken on June 15, 2018. Since then, the group had pushed for the project, meeting the mayor, city council members and the planning commission.

“It’s taken us almost three years to get this off the ground,” she said. Hatley thanked several community members and businesses, including the Class Act, Keith Peterson Fencing, the City of Torrington, City Maintenance and some others.

After Hatley spoke, Michael Thompson addressed the crowd.

“First of all, I just want to thank God for all of you,” he said. Thompson said the park is not just about dogs. He hopes people will take time at the park to reflect on their loved ones.

“Have fun. Enjoy it. We built it for you,” he said.

After that, Candy Thompson’s grandkids, Phoenix Castro, Allison Meyer and Jaxson Adkins cut the ribbon to let people into the park.

“She was your friend.”

Candy Thompson passed away, after a battle with cancer, on May 10, 2018.

Thompson described Candy as a hugger. Even if a person didn’t know her, she would always greet them with a hug. He also said she had an outstanding memory. Candy made people feel special by remembering details about their families and what was going on in their lives.

“If you met her and had the opportunity to get to know her, I mean, she was your friend,” Hatley said.

Thompson said Candy was a locomotive engineer for 38 years and local chairman, who was always looking out for the little guy.

“She’d be mother hen to everybody and send people in the right direction when they needed to know something,” he said.

After Candy passed, Thompson decided he wanted a memorial set up for her. After some discussion with her family, they decided a dog park would be a wonderful option.

“She taught me how to have fun in life,” Thompson said, having been married to Candy for about 12 years.

There is plenty of fun ahead for dogs and their owners who decide to take advantage of the new park.

The public will be able to read more about Candy once her memorial sign is installed in front of the park’s first tree.

The long haul

On June 15, 2018, Thompson and Hatley said they sent a letter proposing the dog park to then-Mayor Varney and got no response.

That summer, the two started working with individual city council members.

DeAnna Hill, according to Hatley, was instrumental in suggesting who to talk to and what steps to take.

Hatley said she met with Mayor Randy Adams in late 2018, before he was elected.

According to Hatley, Adams said the project sounded like a great idea.

In February of 2019, the Hatley said they submitted an application to the Goshen County Recreation Board. They later received $10,000.

That March, they met with the planning commission. Community members were encouraged to attend to speak on the project, especially those who lived in the neighborhood near where the park would be.

Hatley said the meeting did not go well.

“Everything that we thought was a positive proposal they had something negative to throw at us. We walked out of there a little discouraged and even asked them not to take it to a vote,” she said.

They decided meet with more people and do more research about whether or not to continue moving forward.

On June 7, 2019 – the Class Act had their Cut-A-Thon. This event involves donating their proceeds from a whole day to a project or organization. Previously the Class Act had approached Thompson about being the recipient of the event. $10,000 was raised for the dog park.

“We were just tickled to death,” Hatley said. Before, all their work had been funded through memorials and various fundraisers.

Hatley and Thompson continued advocating for the park at city council meetings and to the planning commission.

The dog park sits on the corner of what was once a baseball field. Thompson said the outfield fence had been moved in, so it could be used as a softball field.

Thompson said the planning commission worried they might one day want to extend the property into a baseball field again. There was also concern about liability, in an area used by children.

The location seemed perfect to Hatley, with the pool, baseball fields, walking path and skate park in the same area, giving families a chance to use the dog park while they are in the area for other activities.

“It’s such a perfect area for us,” she said.

Hatley called every city in Wyoming to ask if they had a dog park and asking if they had run into any problems. She later reported her findings to the city council.

Hatley said she and Thompson had a work session with the city council members and the mayor on September 12, 2019.

On the 17th, she said, “they gave us a pretty good indicator they were going to approve it. We were elated.”

The city agreed to lease the land to Thompson and Hatley for the dog park. Negotiations followed.

On January 21st of 2020, Hatley said she received an email from City Attorney James Eddington, saying the city had decided to let them move forward without a lease.

“They are graciously letting us use it,” Hatley said. The city will mow and water as they maintain the other parks in town.

“We did not break ground until August of 2020,” Hatley said.

The group did what they could with the funds they had – funds from the Class Act, the recreation board, selling bandanas and dog treats, and selling memorial benches and trees.

There was not a large group of volunteers. Hatley described it as a “skeleton crew.”

Keith Peterson of Keith Peterson Fencing and his crew donated their time to install fences, build agility equipment and construct benches.

Jackie Weis helped design the park and drew out sketches.

“She’s been with us since the very beginning, helping out in any way she could.”

Hatley said the process of getting approved took much longer than they had anticipated.

Thompson said he wanted to give up on the project a few times.

Hatley said when Thompson wanted to give up, she would tell him, “We have nothing but time on our hands and we are going to see this to the end.”

“I always felt this driving force to finish,” Hatley said, as Candy was one of her best friends.

Thompson commended Hatley for her persistence, “if Candy was doing this project, she would battle just the same as Holly has battled.” 

Nearly three years later, here they are. While the project is mostly completed, the group hopes to add a few more features.


A place to reflect and connect

“If you can come here and sit on a bench and reflect a while, that would be good. Bring your dog or come watch somebody else’s dog,” Thompson said.

Thompson said there are several ways people can connect with the park. Those who knew Candy, those who know someone who has battled cancer, those who have lost a loved one or those who love dogs can all share in the memorial.

“There are people who are probably going to be meeting here who were strangers,” Hatley. Candy’s memorial will continue gathering people together, just as she had done in life.


© 2021-The Torrington Telegram


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