An impromptu meeting of local basketball coaches, teen players, and two members of Chestertown Recreation Commission took place at Ajax basketball court to share ideas about upgrading the aging basketball area and what it means to the community.
Ajax basketball court is on Cross Street, adjacent to the old railroad station building and the Gilchrest Rail Trail.
The Town Council has tasked the Chestertown Recreation Commission to develop a proposal for renovating the pocket park. Currently, they are considering the restoration of the original two-hoop court layout. Over the years, the court has been reduced to a half-court.
Another concept slated to be offered to the Recreation Commission by Frank Rhodes is a three-hoop court, the center hoop ostensibly for practice.
Last May, Carla F. Johnson and a group of citizens submitted an alternative plan stating that an expansion of the court as proposed was not compatible with the neighborhood and that enhanced activity would elevate the noise level. Johnson and the concerned group, represented by attorney Charles MacLeod, said they would be okay with a half-court layout.
The Chestertown Town Council has requested that contending plans offered to the Recreational Commission find a satisfactory compromise and present it to the Council. Otherwise, the Council will make a determination from the plans submitted.
The recent meeting was attended by KCHS Head Coach Sobaye Scott, WC Head Coach Aaron Goodman, and long-time Kent County coaches Coach Melvin J. Freeman, Harold Sommerville, and Frank Rhodes. They met to discuss the importance of Ajax court to the community and to consider the possibility of the three-hoop court. Their ideas will be submitted to the Recreational Commission on August 9.
The consensus for expanding Ajax court was positive. Each coach cited the need for a renovated or redesigned court to send a positive message to local community youth and invite downtown activities.
In a phone call interview, long-time Kent County coach Melvin Freeman said that a renovated court would be a significant step in engaging local youth and adults in healthy activities.
“This court has been around for a long time. My father played on it and I played on it. My mother used to tell stories about kids that would come in from out of town to compete against local teams,” he says. “That’s the kind of thing we like to see happen again,”
While many observe that there are other basketball courts available to youth, Freeman points out that the crosswalk to Gateway Park at Rt. 20 and Flatland Rd remains a dangerous pedestrian intersection, and that Ajax court would offer an additional, safer alternative with access via the Walking Trail.
Washington College basketball coach Aaron Goodman agrees that the park’s renovation would be an asset for the community. “I’m all for it. They’re doing this for the right reason,” he said.
Another long-time regional coach and member of the Recreation Commission Harold Sommerville, sees an Ajax upgrade as a convenient location for an active youth basketball court, especially for those living in walking distance. He says that courts like these offer healthy alternatives for kids. “I used to play on this court. If I could put a basketball court on every corner to help keep kids out of trouble, I would,” he said.
Washington College basketball coach Aaron Goodman agrees that the renovation of the park would be an asset for the community. “I’m all for it. They’re doing this for the right reason,” he said.
Another long-time regional coach and member of the Recreation Commission Harold Sommerville sees an Ajax upgrade as a convenient location for an active youth basketball court, especially for those living within walking distance. He says that courts like these offer healthy alternatives for kids. “I used to play on this court. If I could put a basketball court on every corner to help keep kids out of trouble, I would,” he said.
Recreation Commission member Frank Rhodes sees the Ajax restoration—both the two-hoop and three-hoop ideas—as a real start to bringing the basketball community together.
“We used the neighborhood’s group plan and folded it in with ours with the hope that we can arrive at a design satisfying all of us,” he said. “As far as the playground part of Ajax, we feel that since Wilmer Park will be offering a new play area, we can reduce that availability at Ajax. We hope to move these ideas along at the next Recreation Commission meeting.”
Much of the costs for any court restoration would be underwritten by private donations and fund-drives, according to the Recreational Commission.