The Toronto Raptors rise in the NBA has sparked a full-court press from a Newmarket neighbourhood to get a basketball court built in its local park.
Candace Owens, who lives in Newmarket’s Stonehaven-Wyndham neighbourhood near Bayview Avenue and Mulock Drive, said as soon as the basketball craze hit about two years ago, basketball nets began going up in local driveways at a breakneck pace.
“Basketball is big because of the Raptors,” she said, adding that her 13-year-old son is a huge fan. “We had all these nets up on our street, which was great because it got the kids out playing and our backyards here are the size of postage stamps.”
Soon after, however, neighbours began receiving notices from the Town of Newmarket that the basketball nets were encroaching on the street, one side of which has no sidewalk, getting in the way of garbage pickup, and creating on-street parking issues.
“It was like batting a ball back and forth figuring out where we could put the nets,” Owens said. “So, that’s when we thought, ‘Why don’t we have a basketball court in our neighbourhood’?”
Owens and other neighbours separately contacted then-councillor Tom Vegh in 2017 about the possibility of the town building a court at the local Willowick Park. The park offers a connection to area trails and features a small playground, but there is nothing there to engage older children, Owens said.
The residents’ request for a basketball court appeared stalled until the October 2018 municipal election, when Owens contacted the ward’s new rookie councillor, Grace Simon.
Now Owens has renewed her push for a basketball court or half court at Willowick Park and has so far collected 40 signatures from her neighbours in support of the initiative. She plans to canvass the neighbourhood this weekend to speak to more residents about the basketball court idea and present the results to Simon at the Tuesday, March 19 community meeting the councillor is hosting on a variety of topics.
“Our neighbourhood is really unique, we’re kind of like an island, secluded,” Owens said. “We don’t have direct access to Stonehaven and the main streets are busy, parents don’t want their children crossing there. Our kids can only move freely from their street to the park.”
Councillor Simon agreed there is a lack of outdoor play activities for older children there and traffic through the small neighbourhood is concerning.
“The streets in that neighbourhood are used as a quick-route access from Mulock onto Bayview, and I want to get some street calming as it is,” Simon said. “They have a playground at Willowick Park and a huge grassy area, but there’s a lot of kids who want to play basketball and they can’t play on their streets because it’s too busy.”
Simon said that although the 2019 budget process has already wrapped up and approved, there may be funding available for a basketball court or half court.
“I’m hoping that we can work it in either this year or next year,” she said. “We want to encourage kids to be out at regular play and not if the parents have to drive them across Bayview or drive them somewhere else so they can play basketball.”
Newmarket’s Ward 1 community meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 19 from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Magna Centre, 800 Mulock Dr., in the multipurpose room.