Drive to save Gan ball diamond

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GANANOQUE – More than 450 people in Gananoque have signed a petition to save the Arlene Cartwright Baseball diamond located behind the Lou Jeffries Arena.

The petition is in response to a July 7 town council decision to place multi-sports courts on part of the diamond and replace the rest with a full-sized soccer field at a future date.

“What’s interesting is that a lot of the people that are signing the petition are soccer people,” said Ed Matthews, a Gananoque resident and author of the petition.

At no time during several discussions or in numerous drawings and staff reports presented to council was the baseball diamond identified as the Arlene Cartwright Baseball Diamond.

“I really don’t know why it wasn’t identified in any of the reports; I don’t think it was meant to be disrespectful in any way, but the fact that she was not called wasn’t right,” said Coun. Dennis O’Connor.

Kari Lambe, director of community services, explained that staff didn’t name the diamond specifically because there are several amenities at the location, all named after different people. The staff reports spoke to the usage of the amenity itself rather than each component part.


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The driving force behind the placement of the multi-use sports courts on a chunk of the baseball diamond, and main proponent of the soccer field, has been Coun. Mike Kench.

“I was a kid when it (baseball diamond) was built, so I was very aware of Arlene, and completely understand her frustration. I did want to reach out, but there wasn’t time, when I had so many other things on my plate,” said Kench, who works full-time and has young children.

Kench said he did consult with the current baseball league and said they agreed the smaller diamond, behind town hall, would be suitable for today’s demands for baseball in town.

They apparently agreed that while there are a good number of young children signed up for baseball, the older children are fewer and can take part in baseball at several diamonds in Leeds and the Thousand Islands.

“We were given information about the proposal before the vote. We want the baseball diamond to stay’ it’s a great diamond. I wrote up a document that we submitted to council explaining that removing the Arlene Cartwright Diamond would kill baseball in Gan. We have three teams in Gan right now, and they will all have to go to Kingston or even Brockville to join teams there,” said Jason Kee, a member of the executive of the Gananoque baseball league.

Meanwhile, Cartwright didn’t know the facility was on the chopping block until someone told her about council’s decision.

“They never reached out to me, although since then, I have had apologies from three of the councillors and the mayor,” said Cartwright.


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Cartwright is frustrated because she and a team of local residents put in countless hours into making that ball diamond happen. In the 1980s, she was very involved in baseball, organizing leagues and tournaments, she said.

At the time, the only available diamond in town wasn’t big enough for adult tournaments, added Cartwright.

“In 1986 I put a proposal together to town council, but they weren’t willing to put any money towards a new diamond, so I decided to fundraise for it,” she said.

She formed a committee and over the next six years, Cartwright and the committee actively and aggressively fundraised for a new ball diamond.

One the highlights of that fundraising drive was a celebrity baseball game held in August 1992.

“I played that game against the NHL guys, and after the game we all went on a cruise with Gananoque Boat Line, which was how we raised a good chunk of money,” said Troy Maxwell, a Gananoque resident and former baseball player and tournament organizer.

It was very much a community effort, Maxwell recalled, with winning teams from the many tournaments donating their winning back to the cause.

“We organized baseball tournaments, snow pitch, high school dances, ball hockey and I did the research to see if there were any funding programs we could apply to,” said Cartwright.

Cartwright discovered that Wintario had a matching dollar program for recreational facilities.

“We raised $60,000 and Wintario matched it. So we built a $120,000 state-of-the-art baseball diamond, and Jerry Carmichael, who was a guard at the Joyceville Penitentiary, was able to organize inmates to come down and build the bleachers, free of charge,” recalled Cartwright.

While there has been some talk of revisiting the issue, it isn’t clear what the procedure would be to reverse a decision that has already been taken. It is also not clear if council has the appetite to reexamine the issue.

Brockville Recorder & Times is part of the Local Journalism Initiative and reporters are funded by the Governmennt of Canada to produce civic journalism for underserved communities. Learn more about the initiative