Crowding overwhelms youngsters' playing fields

August 26, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

Competition for recreation and playing fields in Howard County has forced members of the Savage Boys and Girls Club to crowd onto small and often unmaintained fields that the program's coordinators say can't handle the more than 1,000 children in club programs.

Club officials are considering sending some of their soccer league players as far away as Bowie to play on teams there. And they have offered to pay for maintenance of any fields the county would offer to the club at Laurel Woods Elementary School.

The concern heats up this weekend when the club drafts teams for the fall soccer league. The 30 to 36 teams will have to share one small field and a larger field that fall short of regulation size.

"That's an enormous amount of teams to cram on one big field and one small field in Savage Park," said Joe McKenna, president of the Savage Boys and Girls Club.

The problem doesn't end with soccer, though. Three years ago, the club had about 10 baseball fields on which to play. That has been reduced to five to provide fields for other athletic groups.

Some of the baseball fields available at local schools, such as Laurel Woods, have not been maintained. Grass and weeds have overtaken the dirt infields and the soft turf that makes the area safe for play.

The baseball fields and the grassy open space at the school are sometimes used for practice, but Savage club officials said the grounds are unsafe and inadequate for baseball or soccer.

Mr. McKenna and coordinators of the program have met with county officials during the past two weeks to discuss ways of increasing the number of fields available to the club.

Savage club officials said they want the county to clean up two baseball fields at Laurel Woods elementary and to develop two more baseball fields and two soccer fields on the open space at the school. Club officials said they would pay for the maintenance of the fields.

This soccer season, Gary Cardinal, commissioner for the Savage club's soccer league, said he has considered extending the playing area into Bowie so the children can participate in programs with adequate recreational facilities.

"We are over our capacity, trying to get 400 kids onto the available fields," Mr. Cardinal said.

Finding enough playing fields for adults and children is a problem in places other than Savage, county officials say.

"There's no question that we need more recreation space throughout the county," said County Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass, a Democrat who represents the Savage area.

The Howard County Recreation and Parks Department recently mailed questionnaires to Howard County residents, asking, "In 2010, where will Howard County children play?"

"Our kids will be playing in Carroll County; I'm not kidding," said Del. Virginia Thomas, a Democrat from District 13-A, who, along with Ms. Pendergrass, met with officials from the Savage club to discuss the problem.

"My concern is that the county is not planning for recreation in the eastern part of the county," Ms. Thomas said. "The bottom line is, you've got more and more development and you don't see anything in the books as far as recreational facilities."

Ms. Pendergrass and other county representatives said they support the proposal to develop more fields at Laurel Woods elementary, and said that it could happen by the start of the spring baseball season next April.

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