Mayor Eddie Francis leads the “Mayor’s Walk” at the Rally for Realtor® Park
In 1979, Mayor Bert Weeks (1975-1982) reached out to The Windsor-Essex County Real Estate Board’s then-President, Bob Pedler, with a proposition. “One morning, the phone rang in my office, and it was Mayor Weeks calling,” recalls Pedler. “He said he had a proposal in mind, so I went down to his office the following morning, and he told me that Homedale Park was on the brink of being sold.”
Homedale Park was a 20-acre stretch of land that was owned by the Windsor Board of Education and was a possible site for a new secondary school on Windsor’s east side. The Board of Education had announced its possible sale, an announcement which displeased Mayor Weeks. “Basically, Homedale Park could have gone for development – whatever the highest bidder wanted to do with it would be done. Mayor Weeks wanted to see more parkland.”
Homedale had become the beloved home of the Riverside Minor Baseball Program, which was made up of approximately one thousand children and adults and 58 teams. Reportedly, the three baseball diamonds in Homedale Park were used over 140 times between April and September, and were also used for a two-month children’s summer baseball program. This summer program drew in nearly 300 participants. The Essex County Minor Soccer Association, the Essex County Soccer Association, and several area schools utilized the soccer/football fields of Homedale Park, and the tennis courts were filled to capacity season after season. Playground equipment had also been installed by the City of Windsor, and approximately $110,000 had been spent on park improvements,including the installation of drainage tile, topsoil, leveling, seeding and tree planting, and the construction of a crushed stone, 130-car parking lot. It was unquestionable that Homedale Park’s size and location, as well as its impressive facilities, had become a vital part of the Riverside district. And the Windsor Board of Education was ready to sell it.
“So Mayor Weeks called me in to see if I could negotiate with the Board of Ed and arrive at a reasonable price,” Pedler continues, “which I did. Mayor Weeks then said, ‘I want the real estate board to pay for it.’ (This meant) that we would now have to raise funds for it.” On February 7, 1979, a meeting between the Directors of The Windsor-Essex County Real Estate Board concluded in the passing of a resolution that would involve all Members of the Board to participate in fundraising activities to purchase the park.
Doug Jeffery, who was named chairman of the committee responsible for raising funds to purchase Homedale Park, successfully rallied the Members of The Windsor Essex County Real Estate Board. “At the meeting we had that year, regarding the acquisition, nearly 100% of our Members agreed to hold fundraising events to purchase the park. The real estate industry responded the way the Mayor hoped it would – that it would be interested in saving the park by purchasing it, and then turning it over to the city.”
The price set by the Windsor Board of Education was $225,000. “Whatever funds we were able to raise would be matched by a Wintario grant,” says Jeffery. WECREB pledged to raise $112,500.00 by holding “some bingos, interoffice baseball games… and the largest fundraiser of all was a Corvette lottery – our membership purchased and sold tickets for $100 each.”
The Windsor-Essex County Real Estate Board had a mission.They were to do whatever they could to raise the funds necessary so that Homedale Park might be saved, and they would present the park back to the citizens of Windsor as a gift. While it was not a legal obligation for the Board to raise funds for the acquisition of the park, it was indeed a moral one. WECREB stood by its promise, and raised the $112,500.00.
In 1980, when Homedale Park was successfully acquired, the park was then renamed REALTOR® Park, in honour and in recognition of the organization who so generously devoted time, effort, and energy into raising funds for the acquisition of the property. To this day, it remains an integral part of the Riverside district. “It seems almost contradictory,” says Jeffery, “that a group of real estate professionals would want to acquire land and not develop it. But we did it to retain the use of Homedale Park as a park. It was a gift for the residents.”
The price set by the Windsor Board of Education was $225,000. “Whatever funds we were able to raise would be matched by a Wintario grant,” says Jeffery. WECREB pledged to raise $112,500.00