A view of the Seneca River from the Ritter Community House at Community Park in Baldwinsville. (Photo courtesy of the Baldwinsville Lions Club)
The Baldwinsville Lions Club has plenty of reasons to celebrate this year. Not only is 2018 the club’s 70th anniversary, but it’s also the 60th anniversary of Community Park and the 170th anniversary of the incorporation of the village of Baldwinsville.
In that spirit, the Lions Club will host “Celebrate Community Park” next Saturday, June 16.
Ron Schmidt, secretary of the Baldwinsville Lions Club, said Community Park is a hidden gem of Baldwinsville. Tucked back behind the trees off Maple Road, it can be easy to drive right by the park.
“That’s part of the reason for doing the park celebration, to get people to discover Community Park,” Schmidt said.
Community Park is sometimes referred to as “Lions Park” because the Baldwinsville Lions Club revamped the area and installed the clubhouse and other features.
“The park development was started by the Lions when they realized the village had this land that was being underutilized,” Schmidt said.
The Lions Club hired contractors, Schmidt said, and built the Ritter Community House at the park. The building houses the club’s regular meetings in the spring, summer and fall and is available to community members for private events.
“We also rent it out to people for graduation parties, events that are too big for their homes,” Schmidt said. “That’s going to be the center of where we’re going to do the park celebration.”
Over the years, the village of Baldwinsville has made numerous improvements to Community Park, often with the help of the Lions Club. The most recent additions include a kayak launch, new bathrooms and a trail around the perimeter of the park. Next on the to-do list, Schmidt said, is the construction of a pavilion.
The village has also made improvements to the trail that leads from Meadow Street into Community Park.
“The old path was kind of rough,” Schmidt said.
In addition to showcasing the facilities, the park celebration will feature a crafters and vendors fair and “old-fashioned field days” games.
“We did an indoor craft fair last year at the old Rite Aid at River Mall and that was quite successful,” Schmidt said.
The field days-style games will include water balloon and egg tosses as well as sack races and three-legged races.
“I like the idea of the old-fashioned field games because people are so tuned into their electronics,” Schmidt said. “Hopefully we can have some people down there and enjoy some silly games together.”
Bringing people together gives the Lions Club a chance to share their mission with potential members. Like many service clubs, the Lions have struggled with recruiting younger volunteers in the past few years.
“It’s difficult in today’s world for these small organizations to survive,” Schmidt said. “We feel fortunate to have survived this long and to have done as much for the community as we have and continue to do.”
Schmidt said new members tend to find the club by word of mouth or through the invitation of a friend. That’s how Schmidt came to be a member. He and his wife were friends with another couple, and the husband invited Schmidt to check out the club.
“Come to lunch on Tuesday and if you want to join, you’re in,” Schmidt recalled his friend saying.
“Sometimes it’s just that simple,” Schmidt added. “It’s not a membership drive necessarily. They saw us somewhere and [came] to us and said, ‘I’d like to join.’”
Lions Clubs all over the world focus on helping those with hearing or vision impairments. The B’ville club will be collecting hearing aids and eyeglasses at the June 16 event. Schmidt said the club also works with Malara Eye Care to provide glasses for children in need.
“They kind of fall through the cracks — they don’t have insurance [to afford glasses] but they can’t see the blackboard,” he said.
The club also helps build wheelchair ramps, sponsors an annual scholarship and supports other local causes such as the Baldwinsville Christmas Bureau and Guiding Eyes for the Blind.
“It’s just people volunteering to help others who need help,” Schmidt said. “I think Rotary and Kiwanis are the same kind of organizations that fill a need to help people in our community and in the world.”
Celebrate Community Park takes place Saturday, June 16. The park is located on Lions Parkway off Maple Road, a quarter-mile south of Van Buren Road intersection.
Here’s an overview of the day’s event schedule:
Attendees can also explore the new perimeter trail, tour the park with a naturalist and meet an animal rehabilitation specialist.
The Lions Club will be collecting used eyeglasses and hearing aids.
Event attendees can learn about the Baldwinsville Lions Club, Lions Clubs International and their mission. To learn more about the Baldwinsville Lions Club, visit e-clubhouse.org/sites/baldwinsvilleny/index.php or facebook.com/BaldwinsvilleLions.
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.