Site Leased For Crofton Youth Center

August 13, 2009|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

A group of Crofton community leaders secured a county-owned site for a planned youth community center Wednesday, a project that had languished over the years but received renewed attention after the gang-related death of a 14-year-old Crofton boy nearly three months ago.

County Executive John R. Leopold signed a lease agreement Wednesday with the Crofton Regional Community Center Foundation for use of a plot of county-owned land at the cost of $1 annually.

The foundation hopes to raise up to $7 million to construct the center, including an outdoor skateboard park, which would sit on the now-undeveloped four-acre site at the intersection of Route 424 and Riedel Road near Crofton's public library.

"I'm pleased that I'm in a position to make it happen," Leopold said shortly after signing the agreement, which he called "part of a long-range strategy" for dealing with youth violence. "Hopefully, this will be some good to come out of this tragedy."

Christopher David Jones died May 30 after he was attacked by at least two youths while riding his bicycle. A 16-year-old has been charged as an adult with manslaughter and a 14-year-old has been charged with manslaughter in connection with the attack.

Christopher's death sparked community concerns over policing, gang violence and the lack of a community center to serve as a gathering place for young people.

Former state Sen. Janet Greenip, the foundation's board president, said there have been attempts for the past two decades to establish a community center in Crofton, with efforts ramping up within the past year.

Art Huseonica, president of the Greater Crofton Council and a member of the foundation board, said they settled on the four-acre site in May and approached the county. After Christopher's death, he said, the wheels began moving.

"The plan got accelerated," Huseonica said. The proposal "was sitting in the county offices. A week after [Christopher's death] it was approved."

Steve Grimaud, president of the Crofton Civic Association and also a member of the board, said he estimates the center's operating costs would be about $120,000 annually, with a third of that funded through private donations and the rest through fees. Grimaud said the foundation is exploring a resident- and non-resident-based membership fee system.

Grimaud said the board plans to partner with other community groups for fundraising efforts and programming at the center.

Board members said they hope to have the project "shovel-ready" in two years.

"It depends on the generosity of local citizens and civic groups," Huseonica said.

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