As a 37,000 square-foot technology and recreation facility is under construction in Fort Washington and a large-scale aquatic center is planned for Brandywine, southern Prince George’s residents are starting to feel pretty good about their park and recreation facilities.
At a Maryland-National Capitol Park and Planning Commission budget forum Tuesday night at Harmony Hall Regional Center in Fort Washington, many of the around 30 residents in attendance praised the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation for the strides made to bring high-quality facilities to the region in recent years, and turned their attention to comparatively minor requests.
Earle Gumbs, 81, president of the Hillcrest-Marlow Heights Civic Association, focused his comments to planners and members of the Prince George’s County Planning Board on advocating a bus service for teens in the Marlow Heights area.
Gumbs said he was concerned that once the Marlow Heights Community Center closes for renovations next year, teens who use the facility will have no way to reach the Hillcrest Heights Community Center, about two miles away. But he said he was pleased overall with the department’s recent work.
“You’ve got to give them credit when you get results,” Gumbs said.
Janet Sutton, 65, of Clinton thanked the agency for upgrades to the Camp Springs Senior Center, including new handicapped-accessible bathrooms, televisions and the construction of a new outdoor pavilion at the center.
“They’ve just done a tremendous job,” Sutton said. “I remember four or five years ago, I went asking for those things, saying that we need them, not just want them.”
But Sutton said there is always room for more upgrades and better maintenance. Sutton requested that the carpeting in a room in the center currently used for exercise classes be replaced with tile flooring, because it is dangerous for some seniors.
“People with walkers can get stuck and tilt over, so we’d like some hard flooring in place for safety,” Sutton told planners.
Planning Board chairwoman Elizabeth Hewlett said after the meeting that although she could not speak to any specific request or proposal, she did ask county Department of Parks and Recreation Director Ronnie Gathers to explore the feasibility of replacing the carpeting with hard floors.
Sutton said that the main concern among residents at this point is making sure maintenance increases with the uptick in facilities.
“We just want to keep what we have,” she said.
Hewlett said she agreed with many residents’ focus on maintenance and minor upgrades.
“The number of requests we get are always so varied, so we have competing interests,” Hewlett said. “We want to take a balanced approach, so we fund the things we can afford to without letting our existing facilities deteriorate.”
Gumbs said one thing he said he has harped on for at least 27 years is an indoor swimming pool in the Hillcrest Heights area. The closest indoor pool is the Allentown Splash Tennis and Fitness Park in Fort Washington, which is closed for renovation until 2013.
“You’ve just got to keep pushing,” Gumbs said. “...Maybe someday my grandchildren will be able to swim in Hillcrest Heights. But you’ve got to keep pushing, keep asking and keep it on the agenda.”