Partnerships needed to restore, maintain the city's...

Letters to the Editor

July 19, 1999

Partnerships needed to restore, maintain the city's playgrounds

I applaud The Sun's strong call for removing the hazards on many of Baltimore's playgrounds ("Playground dangers loom over children," July 13) and commend its coverage of the opening of the newly renovated ABC playground in Southwest Baltimore ("Safer play is aim of park," July 11).

Formerly a site of drug dealing, the ABC playground has been reclaimed by neighborhood residents and children. This playground renovation was the result of a partnership among the state's Hotspot Communities project, city agencies, the nonprofit Neighborhood Design Center and community residents.

As the staff and resources of the city's Department of Recreation and Parks has been cut, this kind of partnership is crucial to improve our playgrounds.

The city's chief of parks, Michael Baker, must also be applauded for his leadership in getting a city bond issue to fund playgrounds on this fall's ballot.

This effort is being multiplied by an exciting citywide public/private partnership, "Playing Safe." It was initiated by the Neighborhood Design Center, the International Facilities Management Association, the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, the Safe and Sound Campaign and the Civic Works youth corps.

If these combined efforts generate a long-term public/private commitment to maintaining the playgrounds, Baltimore will become a model for other cities struggling with similar financial constraints and dangerous playgrounds.

Susan DeFrancesco, Baltimore

The writer is a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy.

The Sun's recent coverage of the state of Baltimore's playgrounds gives important attention to an overlooked issue The number of city playgrounds that need replacement (about 150) seems daunting. However, other cities have tackled this issue by creating four-to-five-year action plans for playground development, funding and maintenance -- plans that have attracted strong private-sector support to supplement public resources.

Chicago is renewing 100 sites over four years; Boston has refurbished 16 of 48 targeted school sites and Pittsburgh has rebuilt 100 of 168 sites since it started its action plan in 1995.

Baltimore can do this, too.

Carol Gilbert, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Neighborhood Design Center.

Bulbs on Howard Street are difficult to repair

The Sun's article "Howard Street left in the dark" (July 8) buried a key point: We have to shut down the light rail system to get to most bulbs in the arches over Howard Street. To protect our workers, this must be done very carefully. You just can't screw in a bulb.

If you doubt the danger, just walk along Howard Street and note the "Warning: High Voltage" signs.

We believe that the design of these lights is fundamentally flawed. Department of Public Works has a consultant doing a complete review.

Most of the fixtures we have examined have been penetrated by water, which should not be the case in 13-year-old units. We have also found three circuit breakers tripped and timer clocks that needed to be reset.

Some of this may be related to the continuous vibration caused by the passing light rail cars.

Repairs may require having parts custom made for these unusual lights.

Department of Public Works is striving to improve Baltimore's quality of life. Sometimes our job is made more difficult because we have inherited a problem waiting to happen, such as these lights.

Kurt L. Kocher, Baltimore

The writer is chief of information services at Baltimore's Department of Public Works.

The Sun's article "Howard Street left in the dark" suggests that Market Center business owners are angry with the city's Department of Public Works (DPW) over broken bulbs above Howard Street.

While everyone would like to see the lights fixed, as president of the Market Center Merchants Association no one -- including any Sun reporter -- has contacted me about the lights or complained about DPW's role in repairing them.

Because of the overhead electric lines, these bulbs can only be changed when the light rail system is not in operation. This necessary maintenance is scheduled for later this month -- when light rail shuts down for the weekend for track repairs.

When I have contacted it about the cleanliness and maintenance of this area, I have found DPW to be the most responsive of city agencies.

Milt Rosenbaum, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Market Center Merchants Association.

Carroll Park, eclectic home for diverse city golfers

Congratulations on Joe Matthews' colorful article about Carroll Park Golf Course in Southwest Baltimore ("Golfers savor unique setting of a diamond in the rough," July 9).

For many years, I have enjoyed playing golf at Carroll Park early in the morning or late in the afternoon. It is close to my downtown office and its level fairways and clear roughs offer a relaxing (not taxing) round of golf in less than four hours.

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