Shortage of athletic fields for Crofton youth reaches 'crisis'

February 01, 1994|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

Crofton is in a "crisis" because there are not enough athletic fields to accommodate organized youth sports, civic association leaders say.

But county officials say it may take four years to buy 108 acres off Route 424 and develop new fields.

That's not good enough for community leaders.

"The year 1998 doesn't cut it," said Dorie Folstein, the president of the Crofton Athletic Council, the largest youth sports group in the special tax district. "We are turning kids away now."

The dilemma Crofton faces is not new to the community, which has been fighting for more outdoor recreation areas for several years. But a building boom on some of the community's last undeveloped tracts has flooded youth programs with more than 2,000 youngsters.

Mrs. Folstein said that in programs such as soccer, children had to play at levels far exceeding their skills, "just in order for them to play."

Last week, Mrs. Folstein's husband, Ken Folstein, a member of the Crofton Civic Association, told residents at the annual meeting that something must be done.

"We do not have any adequate sports facilities," he said. "At this point, it's basically a crisis for our area. Officials didn't project this growth for a number of years."

The Crofton Athletic Council, which sponsors a wide variety of sports, uses fields at county schools, but community officials said overuse has left them in poor and sometimes dangerous condition.

For about a year, the county has been negotiating with Bernard Lerch III and his brother, Gary D. Lerch, for 108 acres off Davidsonville Road for a Crofton athletic complex.

Jay Cuccia, assistant director of the county Recreation and Parks Department, said officials are waiting for the landowners to finish their appraisal.

Talks broke down last year when the owners wanted $2 million for the land and the county offered $1 million. The county has spread its original offer over two years' budgets.

Last year, the County Council budgeted $450,000 toward buying the property; another $450,000 is under consideration in the budget that will be presented to the Planning Advisory Board on Feb. 10.

Even if that is enough to buy the property, Mr. Cuccia said it could take some time before youngsters are playing ball. More money will have to be budgeted to grade the land and build the fields -- a process that could take until 1998.

"You can't just go out and cut a ball field out of a cornfield," Mr. Cuccia said. "It just doesn't work that way."

He conceded that the process won't move as fast as Crofton officials and residents would like, but said other West County communities are facing similar problems.

"Crofton has obviously had a sizable increase in population," Mr. Cuccia said.

"But the whole area is in the same boat. It's a crisis situation in that whole part of the county."

But Edwin F. Dosek, the president of the Crofton Civic Association, said he hopes to push officials into developing the land faster.

Crofton officials say that neighborhood schools are not always willing to share their fields.

Mrs. Folstein said practices and games have been canceled because of last-minute decisions by principals to use fields for school functions.

"They see us as outsiders coming in to use their facilities," she said.

Mrs. Folstein said she plans to meet with acting school Superintendent Carol S. Parham next month to discuss the issues.

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