Safe landings for playgrounds

Rebuilding funds: State money needed to restore Baltimore neighborhood play centers.

April 06, 2000

GOOD playgrounds make good neighbors. They also make good sense, for the safety of children and the health of the surrounding community.

Many of the city's approximately 300 public playgrounds are unsafe for children, with derelict (or no) equipment. They often have concrete or asphalt surfaces that are unforgiving of falls. Broken glass is common. Community disuse encourages criminals to take over the sites for drug dealing. The General Assembly has a request for $500,000 to help rebuild 10 dilapidated play lots in Baltimore, with a 150 percent match of funds by private sources and the city. It's a small bill but it promises big rewards.

The money would be used for new climbing structures -- and for safe resurfacing with wood chips or poured rubber compound. It's a sound plan for community rebuilding. Baltimore voters approved a $1 million bond issue last November to rehabilitate 10 playgrounds. Over the past three years, the city also got $1.8 million from Program Open Space for that purpose. The results are disappointing: three playgrounds have been addressed.

Blame is placed on turf battles between the school system, public housing officials and the parks department. The Schmoke administration shifted responsibility for renovations from the parks department to the public works agency, resulting in further delays.

That's why this bill is important. It places committed community groups in the forefront, with the support of private donors. The city would be pushed to do its part. Gov. Parris N. Glendening endorses the measure, a lifesaver for city neighborhoods.

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