Brantford city council recognized the athletic and cultural significance of Cockshutt Park by declaring the Sherwood Drive park a heritage property during a committee of the whole meeting on Monday.
The designation under the Ontario Heritage Act covers the 28-acre park itself, not including the buildings, meaning existing structures can be renovated and new ones built.
“It's a great recognition, not only of the Cockshutt name, but the cultural importance of the park," Coun. Dan McCreary said. "A lot of great things have happened there.”
Mayor Chris Friel spoke of the park's long history, from a fairground and half-mile trotting track to the current home of the Brantford Red Sox, which began using the park in 1911.
“This is such a rich piece of property for our community,” Friel said. “Many wonderful memories have been formed and continue to be formed (there).”
What was originally called Agricultural Park was established sometime before 1869 and became the home of the Southern Fair. When fairgrounds opened in Paris and Burford, the park became a fixture for sports, hosting the Brantford Cricket Club and providing the setting for one of the earliest known field lacrosse games in Canada, played between a local side and a group of Six Nations youth in 1850.
In 1912, the defending Major League Baseball champion Philadelphia Athletics played a game at the park.
The park was given to the city by the Cockshutt family in 1901 on the condition that the space be perpetually used for recreation.
The heritage designation – which will come into effect if no objections are received within 30 days of the city giving notice – was over a year in the making, inspired by a citizens committee and MP Phil McColeman, McCreary said.
Coun. Marguerite Ceschi-Smith suggested that new signs promoting the park's cultural heritage would attract tourists.
“I think it's a real opportunity to highlight the Cockshutt family and the kind of history we have here in Brantford,” she said.