Gray criticizes recreation proposal for county Too much reliance on fees and not enough activities for teens, councilman says

November 19, 1996|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

Howard County Councilman C. Vernon Gray looked into the future of county recreation and saw too many fees and not enough for teen-agers to do.

The council last night began reviewing the $110 million comprehensive plan plotting the future of the Department of Recreation and Parks for the next two decades.

The plan met with generally positive reviews, particularly from the three Republicans who constitute the majority of the council.

Gray, an east Columbia Democrat, said the plan was strong for children younger than 12, but he complained it offered little for teen-agers who don't want to join youth leagues.

"I really don't see a program that speaks to youth here," Gray told department officials. "What happens in the winter? What happens when it's cold?"

He also criticized the department's increasing reliance on fees, its plan to abandon parks smaller than 5 acres and a proposed property tax break for landowners who donate "undevelopable" land to the county parks system.

Outside the meeting, recreation and parks officials said they offer 800 programs in the winter, with half for middle school children and younger.

"We do, I believe, a stellar job of providing for all age groups," said Kenneth M. Alban, the department's project manager on the report.

But officials offered few suggestions for teen-agers who don't want to join an intramural team or fitness program.

"That's a good question," said Gary Arthur, chief of leisure services for the county.

He said the department hopes to build an indoor arena at Rockburn Park in Elkridge that would feature indoor soccer, floor hockey and maybe a recreation room.

Arthur also said fee increases are necessary unless the department drastically scales back programs or the County Council provides the agency more money in the budget.

Other council members complimented the plan and the county's recreation programs.

"We've got a Rolls-Royce of a program in the county," Charles C. Feaga, a West Friendship Republican, said after the meeting. "People should be really pleased."

The council will continue discussion of the recreation and parks plan at its work session Monday and likely will vote on it Dec. 2.

Pub Date: 11/19/96

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