Baker Park

Families with children playing for Baker Park in Oshawa’s parks league are celebrating the park’s 50th anniversary this weekend.

The opening of Baker Park in Oshawa, Canada on May 31 will also serve as an anniversary celebration, involving food, games, prizes, and other activities. Everybody is invited to participate in the celebration, which runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the park off Parklane Avenue. There will be a cake-cutting ceremony at 1 p.m. with local officials.

Baker Park is one of 18 parks in the league that offers local children the chance to play soccer, softball, and hockey as part of the Neighbourhood Association Sports Committee.

In 1946, the OCCNA was founded, and thousands of children have participated in its programs since then. Baker Park was founded in 1964 in Oshawa to give boys the opportunity to play hockey about two decades later. The tennis courts in the park are currently located where an outdoor rink once stood.

Organizing dances for adults and youth became the park association’s mission. The park no longer offers dances, but it does now offer hockey, soccer and softball to both boys and girls. The park is surrounded by Rossland Road to the north, Townline Road to the east, King Street to the east and Harmony Creek to the west.

Both Baker Park and OCCNA are led by Pat Durack. Deena Durack, his wife, is Baker Park’s treasurer. Initially, the pair became involved with their children’s sports when they were 22 and 25 years old. In the same way as all of the league’s administrators and coaches, they are all volunteers.

“Seventeen years ago someone said we need some help with the park, can you come out and volunteer,” said Ms. Durack.

As a result of participating in the parks league, Ms. Durack’s daughter is now a volunteer at Baker Park, and she, like many of the children who go through the program, learned a valuable lesson about volunteering and giving back to the community.

“They learn life skills like team building and being respectful,” said Ms. Durack.

It’s a multigenerational thing for some families.

The kids who play for Baker are still affiliated with their local park, but now they are playing at arenas and fields throughout Oshawa.

“They strongly identify with the park,” said Ms. Durack. “They love wearing the Baker Park jersey, they love playing with the kids they go to school with.”

The rain did not fall as a group of seven- and eight-year-old girls played soccer at Ritson Fields on Tuesday night. As their daughters in maroon jerseys raced across the field in front of them, parents and relatives sat in folding chairs on the sidelines to watch their younger children.

This year, the kids are new to Baker Park, but not the parks league.

Numbers for the league ebb and flow. Previously, Baker Park had 22 soccer teams, but now there are nine. Meanwhile, Kedron Park in northeast Oshawa is booming as residents move into newly constructed subdivisions.

This year about 1,500 kids will play soccer in the NASC, another 500 to 600 will play softball and between 900 and 1,100 will play hockey.

Pressures on the parks league include the wide variety of other activities now available for kids and the need for parents and members of the community to volunteer. At one point recently, Baker Park risked losing its hockey teams until a parent stepped up to serve as hockey chair for the park.

The volunteers who do donate their time, across the parks league, are much needed and appreciated.

“We have a lot of dedicated volunteers who probably don’t get the accolades that they need or should get,” said Mr. Durack.

At the end of the day, it’s all for the kids.

Coming up: Durham College

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