When the Westminster Jaycee Municipal Park basketball and tennis court area became a teen-age hangout about three years ago, other park users took a dim view of the young people who frequented the place.
Park users complained that the young people were using profanity, making lewd remarks to members of the girls' softball teams, smoking and loitering near parked cars.
This year, hanging out with nothing to do has given way to basketball games organized by a new park monitor. Some teen-agers joined the leagues, others drifted away. Those who stayed learned to warn each other, "Watch your language," after monitor Gary Clark and his wife, Lori, made it clear that profanity was out.
Westminster Recreation Supervisor Ronald J. Schroers, who proposed the park monitor to the City Council, is pleased with the change. "Now you don't see the smoking; you don't see the profanity. Kids in cars don't hang out there," he said.
The program is budgeted at $960, primarily for salary plus a few materials such as whistles and paint to add a three-point line on the courts.
The city got a package deal when it hired Mr. Clark, who started as park monitor June 19. The whole Clark family comes along on the job each weeknight from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mr. and Mrs. Clark, who live in the Greens subdivision that adjoins the park, circulated fliers to announce the basketball program. They enlisted adult volunteers to help teach fundamentals and referee games and even got some parents out on the court to play against the youngsters.
Their son, Kitt, 13, plays in the league. Daughter Whitney, 8, is too young to play but has become the first-aid person.
"I think [Mr. Clark] was the right person for that position," said City Planning Director Thomas B. Beyard. "He has a unique ability to deal with kids."
Everyone who comes to the program makes the team. A registration fee of $10 covers the cost of team T-shirts. League play started last week with two divisions -- 10-to-13-year-olds and 14-to-16-year-olds. Teams play three-on-three in 10-minute games.
The program started with about 10 players but has grown to approximately 40. Mrs. Clark said she was particularly happy to see eight girls sign up. "Basketball is usually a boys' sport, but we have a good turnout of girls," she said.
Mr. Clark played football and ran track at Franklin Senior High School in Baltimore County. He is 28, and acknowledges that if he gets too enthusiastic on the basketball court, "I feel it when I get home."
Mrs. Clark graduated from Westminster High School, where her favorite sports were volleyball, field hockey and the shot put. She studied early childhood education at Frederick Community College.
"Our whole family is here trying to enrich other families," she said.
Mr. and Mrs. Clark hope to have a tournament at the end of the season with full-court games and food sales.
Mr. Schroers is considering asking the council to extend the period when the monitor will be on duty at Jaycee Park next year and perhaps add a similar position at the city playground.
Mr. Clark, who has also worked in the city's after-school recreation program for middle-school students, said he and his wife "just see the need and are blessed with the ability to help young people."