Mount Washington park is in the dark — and will stay that way

Broken cable means lights are out earlier than planned

April 02, 2011|By Liz F. Kay, The Baltimore Sun

The problem: Lights inside a Mount Washington park have been dark for more than a month.

The back story: Beverly Kukoly has called. Her neighbors have called. Finally, there was no one to call but Watchdog.

Kukoly lives across the street from Irvin Luckman Memorial Park, where the lights that usually illuminate the park have been dark for weeks.

"It's always been beautifully lit as a rule," she said.

There are street lights on the blocks that surround the park, but not within its confines.

Kukoly said the park closes at dusk, but once the weather gets warmer, people sometimes come out after dark — playing on the swings, for example.

She said there also have been problems with vandalism at the park.

"It's dangerous for the neighborhood," she said.

She has lived in the neighborhood since 1976 and has seen problems with lighting once before. When she complained, parks officials said that "they were waiting for a part from Argentina," Kukoly said.

She hoped that fixing the current problem would not require such a far-flung solution. Unfortunately for Kukoly and her neighbors, there will be no quick solution.

A Recreation and Parks spokeswoman, Gwendolyn Chambers, said Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. officials checked the system, and the problem is a broken cable. She said the parks department had received a few complaints about the lights, mostly from dog walkers.

Chambers noted that the department had met with community members over several years to discuss a redesign of the park. The new design did not include lights, which are typically used only to light features such as basketball courts. Luckman has tennis courts, which are not lighted.

During the planning process, the playground and the walking path were deemed priorities.

"The prevailing thought was that the community didn't want the lights to come back," Chambers said.

Shea Lyda, chairwoman of the group Friends of Luckman Park during the design process, said that improving the lights would have cost $50,000 — a large chunk of the budget. "We opted for some other amenities we thought the community would enjoy more," she said.

The group was also advised that removing lights would discourage night visitors and thinning the tree cover would increase visibility to enable police to spot trespassers, said Mac Nachlas.

The building that distributes power to the park is to be demolished as part of the new design.

"It did not make good fiscal sense to spend money on the light circuit at this time," Chambers said.

Recreation and Parks officials plan to advertise the contract by the end of April, with a deadline for bids by the end of May, she said. Construction, which is expected to take about a year, would likely begin in August.

Technically, city parks close at dusk, and there are working street lights on its perimeter, she said.

Who can fix this: City residents should call 311 to report problems.

—Liz F. Kay

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