Brandishing a committee report declaring that half of Baltimore's playgrounds need major improvements, Mayor Martin O'Malley used one being renovated as a backdrop to announce a $20 million plan yesterday to rebuild all the city's playgrounds by the end of his term in 2004.
"Playgrounds are places where the entire community comes together. This is a first step," O'Malley said, standing before about 100 residents of the Glen Avenue, Mount Washington and Cheswolde neighborhoods, who worked for three years to get 38-year old Irvin Luckman Park in the 2800 block of Glen Ave. rebuilt.
The mayor said the goal is to get 49 playgrounds at least into the planning or design stages this year, and nearly 300 done by the end of his term.
Roseann Glick, who led the Luckman effort and got $60,000 toward the $230,000 project from the Northwest Baltimore Corp.'s Pimlico Race Course impact fund, said her campaign began as a safety concern to replace aged equipment set in concrete and asphalt that could injure a child who fell.
"I'm delighted, though it's taken a little longer than I thought," Glick said.
O'Malley said that before he took office, the city was budgeting only enough to rebuild six playgrounds a year. "We can't wait that long," he said.
The mayor's task force found that most playgrounds don't meet modern safety standards and/or are poorly equipped. The committee - made up of representatives of municipal agencies and boards and community groups - recommended that $4 million annually be spent on renovations and the closing of some small play lots near parks or schools with better and larger playgrounds.
The money will come initially from two state programs - Project Open Space and Community Parks and Playground Initiative - and from municipal bonds.
The report recommends seeking more state funding and money from nonprofit groups and private foundations. The city has plans to budget $1.5 million each year through fiscal 2006 to renovate playgrounds.
In addition to Luckman Park, others targeted for renewal this year are Radecke Park and Courts, 5602 Radecke Ave.; Shipley Hill II play lot in the 2500 block of Boyd St.; Violetville Park in the 100 block of Joh Ave.; and Morrell Park Field House and Park, in the 2400 block of Tolley Ave.