Community rallies to restore Bolyston Ballfield, playground

By Lois Ann Dort    

BOYLSTON – It all started with an offer by Shane Sceles to clean up the dilapidated dugouts, and clean out the snakes, at the ballfield in Boylston for the fifth annual Over-40 Overweight & Outta Shape Ball Tournament. Then volunteers decided to rebuild the dugouts. Next plans were made to take the sod off the field—and the enthusiasm grew as more people began to imagine their field of dreams.

In late June a message was posted to the Boylston Community Association Facebook page asking for volunteers to come out and help repair the field and the Shelley Haynes Memorial Playground on Saturday, June 29. Community volunteer Dawn Grant told The Journal last Monday that they had no idea how many people would show up and were astounded as people kept arriving at the work site on the advertised day.

And it wasn’t only people, it was tools, supplies and lunches. That first day members of the community and surrounding areas pulled together and worked for 12 hours; first in the hot sun and later through five hours in the pouring rain, to bring the field back to its former glory. “They stayed until the roof was on that dugout,” said Grant.

But 12 hours wasn’t enough and a second work day was set for July 6; the evening of July 12 finished the job at the ballfield. Over the three days, 42 volunteers, ranging in age from their mid-20s to mid-70s, put mind and muscle to the cause. They cleared sod, built dugouts, cut brush and much more. Some people brought their tractors and other gear to get the job done.

Along with individuals, local businesses and government also aided in the effort. Worth Brothers provided welding for the beams of the dugouts, MacMaster General Contracting donated lumber, and Con and Con construction supplied crusher dust for the infield. Sceles Reality provided a cash donation as did Antigonish Kitchen and Design. Meals were supplied by Hart’s General Store. Local councillors -- Warden Vernon Pitts, Miles MacDonald and Neil DeCoff -- supported the effort with funds from their district grants. The MODG also supplied a truck for use in the project and MODG staff member Steve O’Handley donated his time.

The field was in impeccable shape for the ball tournament on Saturday, July 20 and the community effort -- along with some unexpected coverage of the upcoming event on CBC radio’s Mainstreet -- brought out a record number of participants.

When the ball tournament started five years ago, the brain child of Kim Chisholm-Bowles, “they didn’t even have enough players for two teams,” said Grant. “This year we had 65 ball players…the stands were full as well this weekend – with spectators.” The event raised $1700 for the Boylston Community Association which will be used to cover the expenses of the ballfield.

In addition to the ballfield, the association has plans to refurbish the Shelley Haynes Memorial Playground, named after a local girl who died at the age of 15 in 1980; the year the ballfield was originally constructed. “We do want to fundraise to put a piece of equipment back there…And we want to put back the Shelley Haynes Memorial sign. And we want to incorporate her picture so people will never forget Shelley,” said Grant, who was Haynes’ neighbour.

Looking back on the project, Grant said, “We did a lot of things in just 24 hours. When you think of it, 24 hours and no government money; that’s just so unheard of.”

The local reaction has been predictably positive. Community pride is overflowing and gotten people talking about what is possible when people work together.

“People kept saying, if you rebuild it, they will come,” said Grant. And they did.