The Social Action Committee for Racial Justice is writing on behalf of families who live in and around the Calvert Heights neighborhood in Chestertown. Families whose children and teens have few places to play where they are welcomed and free from harassment. They have asked us to share their concerns about plans for the Ajax playground. Specifically, the plan to remove the current basketball hoop for teens and replace it with playground equipment just for children. This decision presents several problems for families in town resulting from long standing issues that have yet to be addressed:
1. Lack of Recreational Options for Teens: Families living in and around Chestertown have few safe locations for teens to play basketball together. Ajax park is frequently used by teens due to the limited options for them.
2. Safety Issues: Many parents are unwilling to allow their children to play ball at Gateway park, due to the traffic on and near the circle at Rt. 291. Young people can safely and easily make their way to Ajax park from any of the neighborhoods in town.
3. Harassment: Teens who congregate in most downtown areas are frequently asked to leave by shop owners or the Chestertown Police Department who are called by shop owners. Ajax Park is one of the few places in the area where teens are able to gather with little harassment.
Statement from Families
A member of our steering committee met with families in Calvert Heights and they prepared the following statement, which they asked us to share you with you.
Community members have expressed concern regarding the removal of the basketball court at Ajax. Many feel it would be another disservice to our teens that utilize the court considering, Chestertown is severely limited to fundamental activities. We the community urge you to reconsider. While many of us have pondered the possibility of the equipment being merged and beautified. One should consider the perfect spot being Wilmer Park its already has a beautiful scenery plenty of space and those walking the trail with children can allow the kids to play. This will allow all to benefit not just little children and parents but the teens will still be able to hoop. I know you will consider the concerns of all community members.
We also attach, for your consideration, a 2016 article from the Chestertown Spy. Just four years ago you and the town council considered the Ajax park “… a positive addition to Chestertown’s mission to cultivate thriving and well-maintained community play areas.” Four years later, Ajax park remains a shining example of the town’s mission to provide community play areas for all of the town’s young people.
The Social Action Committee for Racial Justice strongly urges the Mayor and Council to reconsider the planned siting of a new playground. The current plan reduces options for teens rather than increasing them. We recommend that the current equipment at Ajax park be upgraded and the new playground be located at Wilmer park. Wilmer park affords families of small children a place to run and play in an open grassy space. Playground equipment would be a welcome addition to Wilmer park and would expand, rather than reduce, options for families in Chestertown.
Paul LA Tue, III, Co-chair
Arlene F. Lee, Co-chair
Social Action Committee for Racial Justice