Groups split over plans for playground


Ending months of strained negotiations, the YMCA of Central Maryland has broken off talks with a Waverly-based community group about a proposed playground that residents had planned to design, finance and build for local children on the former Memorial Stadium site.

The YMCA board voted last week to sever an agreement with Community-Built Playground Inc., a nonprofit group established to raise money for a playground on an acre of land on the East 33rd Street site, now known as Stadium Place. A large senior housing community and the city's first new YMCA since 1908 are being built on 30 acres where the Orioles and Colts once played.

As part of an outreach campaign to nearby Northeast Baltimore communities, the YMCA promised neighborhood organizers several years ago that it would turn over an acre of its land for use as a public playground.

But what looked like a mutually beneficial proposal was eventually marred by wrangling. In past months, disputes over insurance liability and legal control of the playground became points of contention, both sides said.

Expressing regret, YMCA President Lee Jensen said, "This has been an arduous process, and the board decided it's time to move on." He said YMCA officials were worried that the lack of progress in talks before the playground got off the ground boded ill for a future partnership.

Debra Evans, executive director of Community-Built Playground Inc., said she and others had hoped mediation would settle the differences. Although the YMCA says it will build a playground now that talks have collapsed, the neighborhood group would lose the initiative, design and daily governance of the project.

Evans vowed not to quit.

"That acre of land was promised to the community, and this is not over," she said.

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