Neighbors vow their kids will swing again

December 26, 1991|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,Evening Sun Staff

The day the workers installed the swing set, the neighbors celebrated. They cooked hot dogs and rocked to music. They said this was the first step in turning a dirty, nearly vacant lot in southwest Baltimore into a playground.

That was a year ago. The swing set lasted a couple of days. Depending on which neighbor you talk to, the set either collapsed from overuse or was destroyed by teen-age bullies.

Today, the lot is dirty and, except for some aging, wooden play equipment in one corner, vacant once again. Broken glass and an empty wine bottle litter the grassy area where the swing set was.

Instead of throwing up their hands, however, neighbors and a city official have rededicated themselves to building a full playground on the lot between Lombard and Boyd streets at Arlington Street, near the Hollins Street Market.

Wayne L. Sherman, a community activist, said that if he got discouraged every time he suffered a setback in the city, he'd never get anything done.

"Nothing beats a failure but a try," he said.

After the holidays, he said, he will try to recruit community organizations and City Council members in an effort to assemble the playground again.

And George Brent, director of community relations for Council President Mary Pat Clarke, said he will try to find unused playground equipment elsewhere in the city for use on the lot.

Brent said the same thing to Peggy Morrow a year ago. Morrow, who lives in the 1000 block of Lombard St., led the initial drive to clean up the lot.

Brent said this week he simply couldn't find the equipment then. But now, he said, with budget cuts forcing the city to close recreation areas, unused equipment should be easier to come by.

Morrow said the city let her neighborhood down.

"I got a Christmas card last year from Mary Pat Clarke, and that was it," she said.

Actually, she said, city workers did install a gate and section of fence around the playground, and they painted two hopscotch squares on the pavement. City Rat-Rubout workers came out and poisoned rats.

But, she said, the lot never got what it really needed -- a variety of playground equipment.

Jason Becker, owner of Barcelona Nut Processing Co. a half mile from the lot, did his part.

He bought the swing set and supplied three workers to install it a year ago.

"I had a playground when I grew up," he said at the time. "Our city children need playgrounds badly."

The swing set was wooden, and nicely suited for someone's backyard, neighbors said.

It never stood a chance in a public playground.

"People warned me at the time it might not last," Becker said this week. "But I said, 'Let's try it anyway.' "

Now, he said, he is willing to try again if someone else spearheads the effort.

"Just tell me what I can do to help," he said.

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