Burlington Parks and Recreation and politics - 1987-1988

 BACG History Post #64

Appointed by Mayor Gordon Paquette in 1967 to head the Burlington Parks department, Sid Baker worked for two decades to expand city parks and recreation opportunities.

Under Baker's leadership, the number of park properties owned and maintained by the City of Burlington doubled. New recreation programs were established, including the adoption of Burlington Area Community Gardens in 1987. In 1975, a city charter change created the Burlington Parks and Recreation department. 

A Burlington Free Press story published on September 16, 1987 reported that Baker would ask not to be reappointed in 1988 as superintendent of Burlington Parks and Recreation. 

Department heads are appointed annually by the mayor. City commissions, composed of appointed volunteers, oversee the operations of city departments and deal with each department’s current issues, general operations, budget, and personnel matters. Commission chairs report to the Mayor before making any final decisions.

According to the Burlington Free Press story, Baker, 50, found himself at odds with the Commission chairperson, Roxane Leopold and other commissioners over the maintenance of city parks. In his letter to the commission, Baker felt that it was time for a new department head to be appointed.

Baker's contributions to the landscape of Burlington were significant. After Dutch elm disease ravaged the city's elm-lined streets, Baker spurred the planting of 7,000 trees. 

A staunch supporter of community gardening, Baker initiated a partnership with Gardens for All in 1972 that established  the first modern-era community garden in Burlington, located at Oakledge Park. Fifteen years later, Baker approved Burlington Area Community Gardens becoming a city-sponsored program.

Don Bessler, 30, replaced Baker as superintendent during the summer of 1988. Bessler pledged to improve youth and adult activities, athletics, health and fitness activities, and special events.