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Schmoke proposes to close two rec centers Other uses would be found for 8 others if plan is OK'd.


Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke today unveiled a plan to close two city recreation centers while proposing alternative uses for eight others.

Under the plan, which would take effect July 1, several recreation centers would be offered to community organizations to operate.

The plan was given to City Council members today.

The 10 centers, which have a combined annual operating budget of $409,790, are spread among the city's six councilmanic districts.

Clint Coleman, the mayor's press secretary, said Mayor Schmoke or Department of Recreation and Parks officials conferred with community leaders before proposing the changes, which are intended to improve the effectiveness of the remaining 67 recreation centers. The staff people in the centers removed from the recreation department's control would be sent to augment staffing at other recreation centers.

"No one is ever happy about a closing," Mr. Coleman said when asked if the plan was met with any opposition. "They [communities] have known about the plans and had the opportunity to do something."

A report prepared by the Department of Recreation and Parks on the proposed changes noted that the department has been operating 77 centers with "scant staff too long."

"Many of the recreation centers have only one staff person, and this is an extremely dangerous mode of operation, which we can hope to rectify, at least partially, through the alternate use of these facilities," the report said.

The plan would affect these recreation centers:

* Ambrose Kennedy Playground, 1000 block of Ensor St. The field house has been closed unofficially since 1990. This is one of two centers that would be closed.

* Carter Woodson Recreation Center, 2501 Seabury Road, the second center to be closed. It is in a school building. The space would be returned to the Department of Education.

* Dewees Playfield, 5501 Ivanhoe Ave. The building would be taken over fully by the North Central Youth Services, which occupies 80 percent of the premises.

A wading pool would continue to operate and some of the recreation programs would move to the Chinquapin Middle School.

* Elmley Playground, 3000 block of Cliftmont Ave. The building would be closed because it is in disrepair but children would be able to use the playground. A trailer for an office and rest room facilities would be provided because no other recreational facility is nearby.

* Hilton Recreation Center, 2950 Phelps Lane. Because there has been limited use of the facility, it would be offered to community groups interested in operating it.

* Irvin M. Luckman Playground, Rockwood and Woodcrest avenues. Community groups have expressed an interest in operating the facility.

* John Booth Recreation Center, 3801 Claremont Ave. The facility would be taken over by a senior citizens group that occupies an adjoining building.

* Radecke Playfield, 5610 Radecke Ave. Community groups have expressed an interest in taking over the building. The city would continue operating the athletic fields and a wading pool.

* Rognel Heights Recreation Center, 1200 Wicklow Road. The facility has had declining attendance in recent years and could be taken over by the Department of Education.

* Steuart Hill Recreation Center, 30 S. Gilmor St. The facility has had sparse attendance in recent years.

The Department of Education is considering using the building for educational programs for the elementary school that is part of the building.

The report said that "historically, more than half of those [facilities] recommended for alternate use were designed for seasonal use only, as oversight facilities where equipment and supplies were stored and restrooms were accessible to the public."

Scaling down the operations of the Department of Recreation and Parks will allow the agency to "maximize existing resources for the provision of comprehensive, quality leisure services," the report said.

The plan resulted from a study that included 1990 census data on the population and age groups in the neighborhoods; the proximity to other centers and accessibility to buses and other transportation; activities and programs at the centers; and the conditions of facilities and the potential for developing programs in adjacent or nearby parks.

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