Several South Baltimore parks and recreation centers will get a $6 million makeover, fulfilling community advocates’ longtime demands for more accessible and youth-friendly parks.
“We’re investing in our goals to move the state of recreation in Baltimore into the 21st century, providing our residents quality, affordable and inclusive programming year-round,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said.
City officials and community leaders gathered Tuesday afternoon at the playground in Carroll Park to announce the $6 million investment, which is spearheaded by South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, a community development authority, and Baltimore City Recreation and Parks Department.
The South Baltimore Gateway Partnership formed in 2016 to distribute a portion of the revenue from the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore to surrounding community development partnerships. Since then, the group has been working with the city to implement the South Baltimore Gateway Master Plan, a framework to revitalize neighborhoods around the casino.
The Carroll Park Recreational Center will receive $2 million in funding, while Florence Cummins Park and Solo Gibbs Park will receive approximately $1 million each. The city will announce plans for the remaining $2 million at a later date.
Betty Bland-Thomas, president of the South Baltimore Partnership, is grateful Solo Gibbs Park finally will get the funding it needs.
“You have to make some noise to get attention,” Bland-Thomas said. “When the Gateway Partnership came along, we saw that as an opportunity. When we voted for the casino, we couldn’t begin to dream about the possibilities of what that revenue could make.”
Brad Rogers, executive director of the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, celebrated the project and said more funding announcements are to come.
“This is a victory for the neighborhoods, this is something that we all did together.” Rogers said. “It is not the last victory, it’s just the most recent victory.”
Reginald Moore, Baltimore’s recreation and parks director, thanked community leaders for holding city leaders accountable on their promises to strengthen neighborhoods’ parks and recreation centers.
“You continue to challenge our agency to make sure we don’t forget about those who have not had a voice in the past,” Moore said.
Bland-Thomas said she and other community leaders will fight for the full realization of the Solo Gibbs master plan. The community wants to see tangible results, she said, such as new playgrounds and a renovated basketball court.
“Our teenagers need activities,” Bland-Thomas said. “This is what your community should be all about. We want to be the stewards to make sure that happens.”
Joseph Eldridge, principal of the Southwest Baltimore Charter School, said he was particularly excited about these investments bringing new activities and opportunities to youth.
“To me, a little Black nature-loving, park-loving boy who grew up in Baltimore City and attended Baltimore City Public Schools, this means that when we say we’re going to make this world a better place for our students, we mean business,” Eldridge said.
Princess Davis, 22, moved to Pigtown a few weeks ago and walks in Carroll Park almost every other day for exercise. She’s expecting a baby in September, and is excited to bring her child outside to enjoy a renovated Carroll Park Recreation Center.
“I can’t wait,” Davis said. “That is exciting about what they’re going to do for the playground.”
Davis likes strolling in Carroll Park for another reason — she’s building a playground of her own. The playground, which will be on South Carrollton Avenue, is dedicated to her mom, fallen firefighter Racheal Michelle Wilson.
“I wanted to do something nice for the neighborhood because they always helped out when it came down to my situation with my mom,” Davis said.
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Davis said she gains inspiration from walking past Carroll Park’s playground.