The Chestertown Recreation Committee pitched a revised Ajax basketball court proposal to the Town Council during Tuesday night’s rescheduled meeting. CRC member Frank Rhodes offered a Powerpoint narrative of the CRC’s enhancements.
Tuesday’s meeting brought in dozens of town residents expressing the pros and cons of upgrading the half-court by adding a second hoop and 20’ of additional asphalt.
Many of the community discussions have been guided by several misunderstandings: one, that the CRC would be transforming the site into a full-sized court; and that the court overhaul would supplant the children’s playground. Rhodes sought to clarify these issues.
Instead, a new children’s play space, proposed and approved by the Town Council, would be moved to Wilmer Park once funding is completed; and the court dimensions are smaller than full-size adult court.
Acting Mayor Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver opened the meeting to public comment giving equal time for those in favor and those against the proposal to improve Ajax.
The Council will make a decision during the first town council meeting in May.
Due to the length of the meeting and internet connectivity issues, the video clip is a snapshot of the many who called in or texted their support or disfavor of a renovated Ajax. Those in favor believe that an improved youth activity area is good for downtown and is invitational and a welcoming atmosphere to cultivate racial equity and enhance recreational opportunities for visitors.
Non-supporter issues ranged from keeping the court as-is but renovated; noise issues impacting local businesses; An overabundance of basketball courts; and that the plan represented a misuse of property in a commercial area.
To weigh the full spectrum of participants’ considerations, the Spy recommends viewing the full discussion when it appears on the town government YouTube channel here.
Referencing off the graphic below, Rhodes read a prepared statement attached here:
“The presentation is for a Youth size Basketball court, which is 74’X 42’. Our proposed court will reside inside the easement, or 74’ X 35’, making it close to the original court size but smaller than a youth size. The original Ajax court was on a pad approximately 100’ X 36’
We believe this is an historic site because erected in 1978 this dual basket court provided an outlet for hundreds of parents who today have children of their own. There are other pocket courts today in Chestertown, but besides the historic significance, being close to downtown, next to the Gilchrest walking trail and restored environment, this is a safe space for youth to play hoops. This proposed court expansion is approximately 50 feet from the original and will be located on town owned property. The railroad station is also not in its original location, being moved closer to the basketball park to make way for the Cross street curve upon restoration of that area. The parking lot leading up to Ajax Pocket Park that serves the town is currently owned by the Barry family, who have sent a letter of approval, with a quote “ we view this project as an opportunity for more kids to participate in this healthy sport in a safe manner. This will make our wonderful town an even better place for all” Full letter was submitted to the M&C. The town does have a 15’ easement leading to the maintenance yard on this property. Also submitted to the M&C is a note from Mr. Robbie Gill, CEO YMCA Chesapeake region that says “ Hey Frank, thanks for the email. Sure thing sharing I’ve seen the site and it is a good outlet”. A letter sent to the town council by Robert Ortiz “ I am writing you wearing two hats at least. One as a citizen who lives in Chestertown and also as one of the few minority owned business owners who has a store in Downtown Chestertown across the street from the Ajax court location. I believe that the rail/trail section of Chestertown is actually the most diverse and integrated part of Chestertown. I regularly see children, adults, retired persons, working people, and persons of African American, Latin American and European American ancestry using this area. Anything our town council can do to enhance this area should be encouraged. The proposed improvements recommended by the Recreation Committee should be implemented”. There have been many more letters of support sent to the M&C.
We plan to fundraise locally through businesses and citizens. Minary’s Dream Alliance or MDA, a 501-3C will be the sponsoring organization collecting donations, approval letter sent to the M&C. We also plan to work directly through the town for implementation after approval.
1) New macadam, $4800
2) Install new heavy-duty gooseneck poles , $3800
3) New extra strength poles, backboards and baskets $4800
4) New benches $2000
5) Unexpected costs $2000
6) Paint town seal at center court, local artist
7) Painting the court lines has been donated
Total approximate costs, $17,400
We plan to seek private donations. Basketball youth will help in fundraising with receipts for all funders. We already have people who want to help fund this project today. Back in 1978, the phone company and Delmarva power agreed to help with install of the posts. Maybe that might be a funding possibility we could pursue. One person donated funds for a gooseneck pole back in 1978. We would like this project to be a community effort. With the possibility of the Wilmer grant, the new marina and this court the town will start a path to attract more youth and younger families. Inclusivity for all!
The Ajax committee will maintain the court. Will the town maintain the lawn, and provide suggestions for moving the existing toddler playground to the side of the trail as proposed in our plan. We will raise the necessary funds for this project before implementation. Also, we would like to start the project with or without grant funding for Wilmer Park. The existing swing set and toddler playground will remain. We have submitted 309 signed names of approval to the M&C.”