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Discarded needles in London ball park threatens young players safety

Woman speaks out after her friends 5-year-old daughter was pricked by a needle at Jackson Park.
Woman speaks out after her friends 5-year-old daughter was pricked by a needle at Jackson Park. Niki Anastasakis

Members of the London Tecumsehs Baseball Club are concerned about their young players’ safety, after repeatedly finding discarded needles in the field.

The CNRA park sits along Egerton Street, and is home to the Major Peewee team.

The club fears that the players, 13 years old and under, could prick themselves during practice or a game.

Wayne Bilger, President of the London Tecumsehs, says it’s a lot of work for them to clean up the facility. Part of his routine on Saturday morning is a walk around the park before the kids can step into the field.

“We have found needles along the edge of the fence. We have had an incident where we found empty needle bags, dirty rags in the porta potty, throughout the park, on the benches that the kids sit on, and it’s just something that we have to do,” Bilger said.

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READ MORE: Lethbridge mother says pre-teen poked with needle outside of preschool

The team has been using the park for two years.

Bilger says they took the location as a park transformation, and one of the common questions he gets is why he chose CNRA.

“We needed a home for our teams. We couldn’t just borrow parks constantly. There is not a lot of park availability. We needed something with two diamonds. There weren’t a lot of other choices. So, do we take up this park that might need a little work? Or do we continue to just be nomads roaming around the city?” Bilger said.

The local club is a competitive organization for three house league associations: Eager Beaver Baseball, South London Baseball, and Southwestern London Baseball.

The club has implemented rules to ensure players’ safety.

He tells players: “If you see something, don’t touch it. A ball goes to the fence line, don’t go there. You go to get a coach or parent to go to the fence line.”

Andrew Angus, board member, says the problem is embarrassing when a visiting team sees a used needle in the field, which happened this year.

They have been contacted by OPP, which is trying to rectify the situation. Beliger says officials can only do so much, as the area has no lights or cameras.

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They have had two break-ins this year, in which a large amount of equipment and money was stolen. The robbery is a set back for the team, as it has to replace the items rather than purchase new tools.

READ MORE: More and more drug use needles found in city parks

Angus says having lighting at the park could prevent further incidents, which he adds is not a complete deterrent.

Scott Stafford, director of Parks and Recreation, says lighting is not a quick fix and could create a false sense of security.

“You’re still out in the middle of a field, out in the middle of nowhere, and the light doesn’t necessarily make you safe,” Stafford said.

“Sometimes you light up those areas. It can actually create problems.”

He says they are trying to figure out areas where lights would help.

Stafford tells 980 CFPL that Parks and Recreation takes the problem seriously, and is working closely with the Middlesex London health unit to clean the park and other areas affected. Parks and Rec has trained park personnel how to pick up discarded needles.

There are 18 disposable needle bins located throughout the city, which Stafford expects to increase to approximately 30.

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The baseball league is having a fundraiser in CNRA park on Sunday at 9 a.m., to raise funds and celebrate the start of the season.