For many of Baltimore’s vulnerable young people, games and sports will be played in the streets if Baltimore follows through in closing over half of our Recreation Centers. With the projected closings, we need to re-examine how and where Baltimore’s youth are recreating, and plan ahead to meet their needs with realistic and cost effective solutions. City agencies and members of the non-profit community that serve youth must ask themselves “Where will these young people go?’ and “How will we keep them engaged?”
For Baltimore’s approximately 30,000 youth skateboarders their “city game” is already played in the streets on asphalt and concrete. Baltimore’s skateboarders need at least 44,000 sq ft of total terrain to recreate, about an acre. Unfortunately, Baltimore has only two public skateparks that total less than 20,000 sq ft. The youth of Baltimore are underserved by the lack of skateparks and without parks, skateboarders move into streets and public plazas, stirring up animosity from drivers, pedestrians and residents which leads to skateboarders being viewed not as youth playing, but as troublemakers. If our city doesn’t have a skatepark, then our CITY is a skatepark.
With limited financial resources we need to be smarter about how we invest in our youth. Do we continue to build million dollar Recreation Centers that we can’t staff, maintain, program or keep open? Or, for a quarter of the cost, do we build quality skateparks, that are virtually free to maintain, to serve as safe, sanctioned environments for young people to skate and play around positive adult peers? Placing a greater emphasis on permanent recreational centers with low overhead, such as skateparks, makes sense if we can shift our thinking from structures to spaces.
Skateparks play a major role in youth’s day-to-day life as a positive after school and weekend activity, they keeps kids in school, in shape and off the streets. A successful park can burn away energy and aggression, teach motor skills, stimulate motivation, reward practice, instill pride, eliminate boredom and even become a morale booster for parents and the entire community.
I believe that we need to change our thinking and our spending for Baltimore’s youth by putting more emphasis on permanent recreational facilities that can serve as a platform for future programming. Learn how you can help create a world-class, public, concrete skatepark for Baltimore’s youth by visiting www.skateparkofbaltimore.com.