Daughter of Santo Algiere vexed by town’s treatment of namesake recreation area

Daughter of Santo Algiere vexed by town’s treatment of namesake recreation area


WESTERLY — As dog owners prepare to celebrate the ceremonial grand opening of the Captain Bruce G. Ladd Memorial Dog Park at the Santo Algiere Recreation Area today, Algiere’s children are hoping their father’s memory stays alive.

Angel Spargo, one of Algiere’s daughters, says aspects of the dog park and the town’s failure to maintain the park named after her father are a source of frustration, sadness and anger. The dog park now encompasses the entirety of the space that had been the Algiere park, except for a parking area and a strip of land that leads to a boat launch to Chapman Pond. Algiere, who died in 1981, served on the town’s Conservation Commission in the 1960s and ’70s. He also served on the town’s Recreation Commission.

“He was a conservationist before there were conservationists,” Spargo said.

In 1978, according to a news clipping that Spargo has saved over the years, Gov. J. Joseph Garrahy signed a proclamation announcing the naming of the Santo Algiere Recreation Area. According to a Sun news report of the opening of the recreation area, an audience of 100 people attended, including state representatives and senators.

According to Spargo, her father worked with town youth groups to build picnic tables and lean-tos for the park. The park is adjacent to a boat ramp at Chapman Pond, which Algiere was instrumental in preserving after a pollution problem caused by illegal dumping, Spargo said.

Spargo, 64, said the town maintained the park for about 12 years but it fell into a state of disrepair after a period of time during which her brother mowed the grass at the park. When the town garage, which opened in 2008, was built across Larry Hirsch Drive from the park, the town’s heavy equipment was stored on the park property, a move Spargo called insensitive.

“I asked why they couldn’t put the equipment at the transfer station instead of on my dad’s park, but I couldn’t get an answer,” Spargo said.

When the garage was built the sign with her father’s name was removed.

“It was like a knife in the heart,” Spargo said.

In the early 2000s, Spargo said she was approached by representatives of the town and Stand Up For Animals, who told her of their hope to build a dog park on the park property named after her father. Spargo said she did not resist the plans but was surprised by the size of the park when it was completed and the removal of the picnic tables and lean-tos.

“It’s a kick in the teeth. Chapman Pond wouldn’t be the resource it is if my dad didn’t do what he did,” Spargo said. “I want the town to know my father wasn’t just a sign in a park. He did so much for the town.”

The dog park was built by a partnership of SUFA, the town and the state Department of Environmental Management. SUFA also built the animal shelter across the street from the dog park.

As of Friday morning three new signs, all bearing Santo Algiere’s name, were posted near the entrance to the dog park. One of the signs is a replica of the original sign bearing Algiere’s name. That sign was designed after Lina Carreiro O’Leary, SUFA president, visited Spargo at her home and took a photograph of a photo Spargo has of the original sign.

Spargo expressed a measure of thanks for the new signs, but said a feeling of being mistreated persists.

“Do you think they would do this at Gingerella Field or Cimalore Field or Craig Field?” she asked, referring to three other municipal recreation areas.

She also noted that the dog park includes a granite memorial to Ladd, who left money to pay for construction of the dog park in his will. Spargo said the town should create a similar memorial to her father, as well as a new sign giving a short biography of her father. She also wants a formal apology from the town.

Town Manager Derrik M. Kennedy said town officials have been in communication with Spargo and noted the new signs have been erected.

“The town has reached out to Mrs. Spargo several times as well as to SUFA representatives regarding the park and signage, and the town has created a sign that is an exact replica of the original sign,” Kennedy said.

O’Leary said she arranged for the replica of the original sign after speaking with Spargo.

“I feel bad that she feels that her father is not being recognized.”

O’Leary said she was hopeful that an additional sign explaining Algiere’s role in the community could be created and erected when work to improve the boat launch is completed. The town is currently reviewing bids for the improvements.

O’Leary, who became involved with SUFA in 2009, said she does not know what Spargo was told originally about the size of the dog park.


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