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Light -- and Darkness


Residents who live near the Jaycees Municipal Park in Westminster are likely to protest last week's request to keep the ball fields there lighted later into the night. Before they claim the longer hours will be an onerous imposition on them, however, they might ponder the situation in New Windsor, where idle and improperly supervised youths are running amok and destroying that town's civic life.

The Westminster Jaycees Girl Softball League and Westminster Optimist Football and Cheerleading Association have asked for more time to accommodate the growing number of teams playing in their leagues. The two leagues would like to extend their playing time by a half-hour, to 9:30 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays during the school year. When school is out, the leagues would like to extend playing time another half-hour beyond the school year limits. The leagues made their request to the city's parks board, which is expected to make its recommendation July 19. The final decision on extending hours is up to Westminster City Council.

For the residents living around these fields, the illumination hasn't been so grand. The high-intensity lights used to be so bright that adjacent property owners claimed they didn't need to turn on their indoor lights at night. Last year, the city installed shields around the fixtures to reduce the impact on neighboring properties. It also planted rows of trees to screen the houses from the fields.

The rising popularity of team sports for boys and girls is driving the need to keep the lights aglow longer. The number of girls playing softball increased from 440 last year to 500 this year. League sponsors say they need more playing time to give all an opportunity to play. The same is true for football.

Extended evening play might be an inconvenience to some neighbors. However, they should keep in mind two things. This is league play, well supervised by adults. These are not pickup games that attract unsupervised kids. Second, keeping youths active in sports means they are less likely to get involved in destructive behavior. Putting up with another hour of bright light and some noise on summer evenings seems a small price to pay for a wholesome outlet for youthful energy.

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