New Edgewood gym swings into action

June 01, 2008|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Reporter

The $3.5 million gym that officially opened at the Edgewood Recreation and Community Center last week means cheerleaders will have space to practice, two basketball games can go on simultaneously and neighborhood children can walk in for numerous activities, from karate to preschool soccer.

Harford County officials dedicated the high school-size gym, the major part of a 10,000-square-foot expansion, on Thursday before a crowd of about 100, many of them volunteers in the center's programs.

"This gym allows the kids who are without transportation to have a place for recreation," said Gordon Tillman, president of the Edgewood Recreation Council. "It will bring more kids in here to learn sportsmanship and how to play games. The gym will encourage more participation."

Members of the Edgewood High School Jazz Band, who provided music for the dedication, said they would return.

"I live right around the corner, and I will definitely be back," said sophomore Taylor Rogers.

Classmate Victor Crowder, who loves to play neighborhood basketball, said, "This will be a great place to hone my skills."

More than 170 children participated in basketball programs last year before the gym opened. Organizers hope many more will join the programs.

"We will handle as many as we get," said Karen Woodland, basketball program director.

The gym will spell an end to the constant competition for space in area schools, and an end to the scramble for some children who had to find a ride on their own. Many will soon be able to take the school bus at dismissal to an activity in the gym.

"This safe, year-round facility will enhance the lives of all citizens, particularly the youth," said County Executive David R. Craig. "It will continue our renaissance of Edgewood."

The county will also break ground this week on an $80 million facility for Edgewood High School, and construction of a new Deerfield Elementary will begin in the fall. The Edgewood MARC train station is set for a $4.2 million expansion, and the county has recently purchased more park land for the area.

"This is a great community for work force housing, for the people who drive the county's economy," Craig said.

Councilman Dion F. Guthrie, who represents the southern area of the county, said Edgewood is undergoing a resurgence of community pride. Volunteers organized a carnival last week and are planning a parade and concert for the July Fourth weekend. More than 150 residents joined a community cleanup this month that resulted in the disposal of nearly 50 tons of trash.

Edgewood High's signature red and white colors accent the gym, which includes scoreboards, bleachers and an expandable center wall that will allow for two cross-court basketball games.

Master Sgt. Dexter Jennings, based at Aberdeen Proving Ground, has run the rec basketball program for 11 years. He is already working on game strategies for the next season.

"This facility is long overdue, and we will definitely make good use of it," he said. Jennings also envisions friendly competitions between the more seasoned players and sheriff's deputies.

"I would like kids to have a close working relationship with the deputies, so they are not afraid of them," Jennings said. "We want the people here at the center to have as much say in raising children as the gangs in this area."

The Route 40 corridor, with its Edgewood and Joppa neighborhoods, has seen a marked increase in crime and youth gang activities in the past few years.

The gym on Brookside Drive might be the deterrent the community needs, said activists and church leaders, who have searched for ways to involve youth in wholesome activities and educational programs.

"This gym will make a difference and be an example unto the county," said the Rev. Sharon Porter of New Life Christian Center Ministries.

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