The Christmas Connection to Baer Park
One of Waterville's most active volunteers, John H. Baer, 47, was killed in a tragic accident while helping to hang Christmas decorations at Third and Mechanic Streets in 1971. He was a member of the Waterville Recreation Committee for 15 years, had coached the Waterville Little League baseball team, served as chairman of the village summer festival committee and was elected to serve on village council. As a result of a 15-foot fall from a scaffold, he received serious head injuries and died after surgery. He was survived by his wife Eileen and three children.
An eight acre plot of land behind Elm Street and next to the railroad tracks had been reserved to build a new elementary school when needed. When it was deemed impractical for that purpose, it was decided to develop it into another park and to name it Baer Park in honor of John Baer. For the next three years it was delayed by controversy and financing problems. The plans drawn up by landscape architects included a large pond for fishing and ice skating but was met with opposition, and the pond was erased from the plan. A proposal for lights at the baseball diamond also drew the wrath of nearby residents.
After tearing down a small house on Elm Street to make way for an entrance drive into the park from the north end of Fifth Street, the park was finally completed with the rest of the original plan intact. Tennis and basketball courts, baseball and softball fields, playground equipment, picnic areas and a pavilion were constructed. Even a sledding hill was added.
Dedication day for the park was held May 21, 1977 with speeches, music, and ceremonies in the morning, followed by a family picnic lunch, games, contests and more music all afternoon. In the following years the playground was improved, and a paved trail now surrounds the whole park. It is a very popular recreation area for all ages.