November 19, 2015 10:39 am ET
Baltimore County restricts access to fields at Government Center
Source: UPDATE: You’re OUT at Home
Update: I received the following e-mail from a parent who was directly impacted by the county’s decision on this issue. Below is the context of that e-mail.
You have no idea how close to home this hits. My son’s, (name omitted for privacy concerns) soccer team currently has no place to practice because of this. His team has been relegated to practicing indoor soccer at the SERRC on Saturdays this coming season because that is the only time available.
This truly is a travesty. Things have gotten so out-of-hand because of the proposed development. And who exactly suffers? Our children.
Thank you for writing this story. I will pass it along to everyone in the league that I can.
Sometimes, it’s better to let those who know tell the story. In this case, I defer to Bob Staab, a 40-year veteran of administrative work in the field of recs and parks.
Mr. Staab was the director of recs and parks for three years in Harford County and four years in Baltimore County.
Below is his letter concerning the county restricting access to the ballfields at the Government Center.
Children and Community Restricted from Use of Fields At North Point Center and Grange Elementary.
What is Baltimore County attempting to accomplish? Since July 1st of 2015, permits for use of athletic fields at North Point and Grange have been restricted from Community use! The baseball season was cut short and hundreds of youth soccer players have been relocated a mile away from their community. Is this another form of the administration’s vindictiveness because their developer friends could not have their way?
The Dundalk-Eastfield Recreation Council has made it clear that they are interested in doing what is best for the children of the Community. At a meeting in October the County called a meeting, not with the Community, but with selected program chairman to discuss the County’s “Proposed Recreation. Center” at North Point. The Community was not invited. This was not a proposed Recreation Center of the Community, but the “County’s Proposal.”
Representing the County was Bryan Sheppard, assistant to the County Executive, and past Co. Executive Jim Smith, who according to Mr. Smith, “Was representing the best interest of the people of Dundalk.” However; the members in attendance were not happy with what the County was offering and questioned whether the County had the best interest of children in their concern. A short while after the meeting had started and after Mr. Smith had emphasized several times how he loved Dundalk. He was asked by a participant in the meeting, “Mr. Smith, are you here representing Baltimore County or are you representing your law firm’s client Vanguard Development?” He again repeated that he was present in the best interest of the Dundalk Community and was representing Vanguard. At that point another meeting participant stated, “I’ll tell you what you are, you are a used car salesman.”
This is not the first time that Mr. Smith, whose law firm represents the developer of the proposed Merritt Pavilion, also assumed the spokesman ship for Baltimore County at an Interagency School Construction Committee meeting concerning the North Point Government Center Park. Would the real Mr. Jim Smith, please stand?
If the County was in the slightest bit interested in the children and citizens of the community, they would have opened the fields for the community soccer programs and allowed them to play within walking distance of their own Community at North Point. They would also have opened any meetings regarding the planning for North Point fields and proposed Recreation Center to the community instead of their own selected committee members.
One of the largest participant programs at North Point is soccer, where Chairman Chris Baxter and his many coaches operate soccer leagues, both indoors and out for both male and female participants. During August, 2014 the program sponsored a tournament that filled the North Point and Grange fields for age groups 4 to 5 year old and up. The amazing fascination about the 4 to 5 year tournament was the hundreds of male and female participants playing together. The quality of play and the outstanding encouragement and enthusiasm of the coaches and parents was exemplary. “Shoot Becky”, “Timmy, pass the ball to Billy!” This program was the epitome of what a quality recreation program can do for individuals and a quality family relationship. It is the type of experience that is once in a life time for a child growing up with a parent by their side.
The North Point experience today is one that has affected the lives of tens of thousands of individuals both young and old in this area. Surely it has had a positive influence on the area as a whole to deter drugs, vandalism and juvenile crime. When we begin to arbitrarily close fields and curtail positive recreational pursuits, we had better be prepared to build more prisons.