The battle over saving recreation centers in Baltimore City appears to be far from over.
Under the mayor's budget -- which was passed this week by City Council -- as many as 14 of the city's more than 50 rec centers could close. That is, unless private groups step in to operate them or unless the mayor can be persuaded by public pressure.
Pressure is what people who live near at least one of those centers are promising to deliver.
“People come here to stay off the streets and stuff,” said 10-year-old Derrick Wilson.
“I come up here to play lacrosse, play at the basketball court over there,” added 16-year-old Teron Taylor.
They’re talking about the Mary E. Rodman Recreation Center in Southwest Baltimore. “It's much funner than any other rec. and I don't want it to shut down,” said A'Shaun Williams.
Neighbors held a rally Friday night, calling on the mayor to change her plan. They say they've sent more than 700 letters to her office.
“And they've been ignored. We have not even received an answer,” said Renee McCray of the Southwest Better Community Association.
“We need our rec centers to stay open. I wish and hope that they will find money to do it,” added Roberta Smith.
The Mary E. Rodman center was built in the 1970's. It's showing its age, but: “It needs very little repair work if any. And it's fully utilized five days a week, sometimes six and sometimes seven,” said Gertrude Hack of the Allendale Community Association. “The mayor doesn't come to our center. so she doesn't know.”
Four other recreation centers are slated to close no matter what happens.
Keeping Mary Rodman off that list would require a private group to step in and operate it, or a change of heart at City Hall. “One of the things that we're out here today is letting the people know that they have a voice, and they're voice needs to be heard,” McCray said.
Under the mayor's the city's remaining rec centers would be renovated -- some of them, extensively. And funding at those remaining centers would be boosted -- allowing for longer hours and new programs.
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