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Groups unable to agree on site for playground


The South County Jaycees' plan to put a community-built playground in the lower third of Anne Arundel County has sparked an adult version of a playground spat in Edgewater.

The obstacle in the drive to put a $60,000 playground in a county park is a counterproposal to put it on school grounds, which neither the Jaycees committee nor the school community wants. The Board of Education will hold a hearing on the matter Oct. 11.

"This is turning into a fiasco," said Patrick Wood, a founder of the South County Jaycees and chairman of its playground committee. "We're trying to put in something for the kids. I'm not trying to put in a peep show store."

The arguments have people playing both sides of the issue. Neighborhood boards have adopted resolutions against the Edgewater Park site, and their members have donated money for the playground and promised to help build it.

With the blessing of the county Department of Recreation and Parks, the South County Creative Playground Committee chose a wooded area at the eastern side of Edgewater Park and hired an architect to design a wooden playground volunteers could build in a week.

But "there is substantial opposition to this site," said Natalie A. Boehm, who lives across Pine Whiff Avenue from the site. She is coordinating the opposition.

Opponents say there is too much traffic and too little parking. They have safety questions and concerns about lighting. The Edgewater Park Advisory Group also says the playground would be about 35 feet from wetlands the county will build next year.

Michael Hebb, president of the Edgewater Athletic Association, is among those who signed a statement of opposition. He also donated to the playground committee. His group's soccer, football, baseball games and other activities bring the traffic that clogs the neighborhood.

Last week, Mrs. Boehm approached the Board of Education with the idea of moving the playground 500 yards to Edgewater Elementary School. The school's 562 pupils could use it exclusively during recess, and the public could use it at other times, she said. The county Department of Recreation and Parks is willing to assume liability and long-term maintenance.

The county response has done little win over school officials or members of the playground committee. The committee has said it would consider the school site only if no other place could be found. The committee already is looking for another site and might take its gift to Mayo, Davidsonville or Harwood.

"I am to the point where if a community jumped up and said 'We want it here' I would move it there, boom and done," Mr. Wood said.

Edgewater Elementary's principal and the boards of the PTA and Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) say the playground would create problems of supervision, safety and community relations.

The school's daytime custodian would have to clean up the playground, and there wouldn't be enough teachers to supervise the 80 pupils who might be on the playground at a given time, said Principal Barry J. Fader. Parent groups complained that head-in parking on Washington Road would have people backing their vehicles into traffic.

The school system's requirements preclude wooden play sets and swings. The Jaycees' playground would have both. Ralph A. Luther, director of facilities management, said he isn't sure what he will recommend. Exceptions to the policy have been made in the past.

The PTA and the CAC will sponsor a Sept. 28 meeting, open to the community. All school families will get a questionnaire the week after the meeting. Mrs. Boehm said she needs more than the allotted five minutes for her presentation and has asked the school board to intervene. Joseph H. Foster, board president, has said he will not intervene.

Losing the playground would be a big disappointment for many Edgewater parents. Mr. Hebb, for one, said he would want his donation back.

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