Groups reach playground agreement

Community organization says YMCA can run area at former stadium site

April 06, 2004|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

After months of acrimony over insurance coverage and related issues, the YMCA of Central Maryland and a Northeast Baltimore community group have reached a tentative agreement that will allow a playground to be built on the site of the former Memorial Stadium on East 33rd Street.

The neighbor group, Community-built Playground Inc., agreed to turn over daily management of the playground to the YMCA, which clears the way for the YMCA to obtain liability insurance, officials said yesterday.

The community group is building the play area on an acre donated by the YMCA. The rest of the 30-acre site, known as Stadium Place, will be used for a senior housing community and the largest YMCA in Baltimore; both are under construction.

The donated acre had become a point of contention between the YMCA and the nonprofit neighborhood group. Although the YMCA agreed to donate the land, the two sides had clashed over who would operate the play area.

The neighborhood group said it should run the playground while the YMCA argued that it needed to maintain control in order to secure liability insurance.

As a result of the dispute, the YMCA board voted late last year to break off negotiations with the neighborhood group. "It's time to move on," YMCA President Lee Jensen said at the time.

The logjam was broken recently when the neighborhood group decided to let the YMCA control playground operations.

"That [concession] was huge on their part," Jensen said yesterday. "Our reasons for declining to go forward were real and they realized that."

Debra Evans, a Waverly resident and director of Community-built Playground Inc., said she was delighted that plans to raise money for the playground and for construction were back on track.

"We never gave up," Evans said yesterday. "We believed in the project, and we are going to build this time next year."

Evans said a community design process had helped produce blueprints for the playground. The playground is expected to cost $250,000, Evans said, and will be built with volunteer labor.

Evans said up to 2,500 people will be needed to help build the playground over eight days next spring.

"This was meant to be for the children and families around Memorial Stadium, a grand structure where everybody will be able to come," Evans said.

Playground plans include a walking path for seniors who live on the Stadium Place campus.

Jensen said the YMCA is scheduled to open in September and the community group is required to complete the playground within two years of the opening.

"It's good news," he said. "Both sides are working to get it done."

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