Schmoke says extended recreation center hours are better than curfews


/TC Saying increased recreational programs are more effective than curfews, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke yesterday announced that 33 city recreation centers and 23 swimming pools will have expanded hours immediately in hopes of keeping idle youths off the streets.

Mr. Schmoke, who has opposed curfews in recent weeks, said the new hours should offer new activities for people 14 years old and older.

"Our studies show that more recreation programs are better than curfews," the mayor said yesterday as he stood on the athletic field at the Liberty Recreational Center on Maine Avenue in Northwest Baltimore. "We want to expand the opportunities for our young people, and not just talk curfew."

The city's 69 recreation centers usually are open from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. during the school year, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the summer.

The expanded hours for 33 recreation centers will vary, with some staying open from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Two centers -- Madison Square and O'Donnell Heights -- will remain open until midnight. (Madison Square will be open until midnight on Tuesdays and Thursdays). Fourteen will have Saturday hours, and two will be open on Sundays.

All of the city's 23 pools will have extended hours. The pools will now be open until at least 7 p.m., except on Sunday when they will close at 6 p.m. or 8 p.m. The pool in Druid Hill Park will be opened Monday through Saturday until 10 pm.

The expanded hours will be only for the summer.

Doug Taggart, the director at the Liberty Recreation Center, said he is excited about the added hours.

"I love it. We're trying to reach not the ones who are out there selling drugs, but out there because they have nothing else to do," he said. "We want them to have something to do."

City officials also said that by Monday lights will be installed at the basketball courts in Druid Hill Park and the courts will be lighted until midnight. For years, many youths and young adults have asked that the basketball courts be lighted, as are the tennis courts. Often, while the lighted tennis courts sit unused or sparsely used at night, the basketball courts were dark.

"These are some of the best courts in the city," said Derek Walton, 19, the only player on the courts yesterday afternoon. "A lot of people want to play at night because it's cooler, but they couldn't. As of next week, I'm staying in the house and playing up here at night."

Alma Bell, of the city Department of Parks and Recreation, said the courts also will have night hours only for the summer. "Since the pool will be open until 10 p.m., we thought we'd give it a shot and keep the basketball open," Ms. Bell said.

The schedule for the recreation centers is:

Centers open until 7 p.m.: Coldstream and Greater Model.

Centers open until 8 p.m.: C.C. Jackson, Lillian Jones and Upton.

Centers open until 9 p.m.: Central Rosemont, Madison Square (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) and Parkview.

Centers open until 10 p.m.: Bentalou, Bocek, Cahill, Carroll Park, Cherry Hill Initiative, Chick Webb, Collington Square, Easterwood, Fort Worthington, Greenmount, Gwynns Falls, Harlem Park, Herring Run, John E. Howard, Lakeland, Liberty, Northwood, Oliver, Samuel F.B. Morse, Tench Tilghmam, Towanda and Virginia S. Baker/Patterson Park.

Centers open until midnight: Madison Square (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and O'Donnell Heights.

Centers open on Saturday: Bentalou, C.C. Jackson, Carroll Park, Chick Webb, Gardenville, Harlem Park, John E. Howard, Liberty, Madison Square, O'Donnell Heights, Oliver, Roosevelt, Towanda and Upton.

Centers open on Sunday: Gardenville and Roosevelt.

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