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FEB 24 - MAR 03, 2015

Only in North Tonawanda: Selling Off Ramsay Field

By Sweeney Payne

February 24, 2015

We included a message from a reader in the February 17 column.

We then did some research, including driving down Walck Road to verify that there is only one athletic field there.

We wonder if our Common Council members all realized or cared that they were selling off Ramsay Field at 1344 Walck Road for next to nothing, increasing an original $50,000 offer to $80,000 for a piece of property valued at $178,000. In no news article where it has been mentioned initially as "property" was it stated that it was Ramsay Field.

What happened to the 20-year agreement the Common Council approved in 2012 with the North Tonawanda American Babe Ruth League covering continued use of the field from April 1, 2012 until March 31, 2032? We haven't been informed in any public statements or coverage of Common Council meetings, of a change in the agreement with the League.

We do not see how the Babe Ruth League can continue their very worthwhile athletic activities on land Ivy Lea Construction will be occupying. Why aren't they being sold a piece of the vacant land on the Buffalo Bolt Commerce Park? Or on Oliver Street at Industrial Drive? Why are our city officials betraying our kids? Why are they eliminating a living memorial to William L. "Pop" Ramsay?

Was the contract with the League terminated with the notice called for in the agreement? Will the League be compensated for all of the time, labor, and materials they have invested over the years in Ramsay Field?

Ramsay Field was dedicated in 1992 in memory of William L. "Pop" Ramsay. How our Common Council and city attorney could even consider eliminating a ball park named in memory of "Pop" Ramsay is beyond belief. To do so without informing the citizens of North Tonawanda that they were considering it is worse. To sell it off without giving us the courtesy of knowing about it is reprehensible and indicative of the lack of respect for the citizens of North Tonawanda by our common council and previous mayor.

John F. Kopczynski (Mayor of North Tonawanda 1958-1959), standing at left; Henry P. Smith III, seated in center, fourth from left, (Mayor of North Tonawanda (1962) and U.S. Congressman (1965- 1975); Tonawanda's educator and athletic coach Clint Small, seated in between Smith, and Ruby Hewitt, owner and publisher of the Tonawanda News, gathered outside the Town Club of the Tonawandas (in the former Farny Wurlitzer home on Goundry Street) to honor "Pop" Ramsay as Citizen of the Year in 1967.

In the "good old days" the locally owned Tonawanda News' staff wrote wonderful editorials about things like this and kept elected officials on their toes. The area's newspapers don't have reporters from North Tonawanda who understand they are being sold a bill of goods which someone should be looking into instead of just swallowing it. We are so grateful that there is a Niagara Falls Reporter.

Ramsay Field was named in honor of a beloved North Tonawandan, William L. "Pop" Ramsay. "Pop" served NT and its youth through the Parks & Recreation Department for more than 50 years. City officials paid tribute to him by naming Ramsay Field in his honor while he was still director of Parks & Recreation. He is known as "the father of North Tonawanda's parks and recreation programs." The sign at the field has at the top, "For the love of 'Pop,' Baseball and Kids."

Why would the City sell that park instead of marketing land already waiting for commercial operations? Why would an Erie County operation which may or may not survive the deaths of its current owners be sold, at about one-third its value, a piece of property dedicated to the memory of someone whose role in the lives of many thousands of children and young people in North Tonawanda will probably never be equaled?

We realize that neither of our appointed Alderman at Large have lived here long enough to know or respect "Pop" Ramsay's memory. The Third Ward Alderman is probably too young. The Second Ward Alderwoman hasn't taken much time to get to know people in her Ward since election and probably never heard of "Pop." Russ Rizzo should know why the citizens would be upset at selling off Ramsay Field but perhaps his hearing aid was turned off during any discussions. Perhaps no one on the council realized it was Ramsay Field they were selling off. They obviously didn't care.

What has happened to that agreement with the Babe Ruth League? Where are the kids going to play ball? Where will "Pop" be memorialized from now on by his grateful city?

How could you do this, Common Council?

The sign at the top reads, "For the love of 'Pop,' Baseball and Kids."
They don't male public servants like this anymore. How often today do we think of a public official as beloved? An extraordinary recreation director, William L. 'Pop' Ramsay served North Tonawanda for more than 30 years. Under his direction North Tonawanda built 18 ballparks, 17 playgrounds, 7 skating rinks, 6 picnic groves, a hockey rink and a Memorial Pool. He also initiated a winter recreation program that was operated in the city's schools. The recreational programs were so successful, that some credit his work and his influence as the reason for North Tonawanda having one of the nation's lowest juvenile delinquency rates.







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