|Parks, Playgrounds in Need of Help Now
Gov. Parris Glendening's plan to devote state money to refurbish parks and playgrounds is welcome news in Cheaspeake Country, where too often both have gone wanting.
Glendening's announcement that he will spend $45 million over three years is a local indication of what we are seeing across the country: realization that our parks have fallen into disrepair.
In Washington, President George W. Bush recognized our crumbling system of national parks in his budget address to Congress last month. His critics said too much of the $4.9 billion in park monies he's seeking over the next five years would go for roads and tourist buildings rather than preserving land.
Nonetheless, Bush should get credit for drawing attention to a problem that has festered over the years as Congress has brazenly diverted hundreds of millions of dollars in annual drilling receipts - money that by law is supposed to go to national parks - into unrelated programs.
Problems exist just about everywhere you look. Maryland state parks, among them Calvert Cliffs State Park, might have closed in the last decade were it not for the extraordinary commitment of its volunteers who jumped in on the state's default to become managers of the park. While they were at it, they built (from old tires and timber) one of the state's first "recycled playgrounds," logging in over 2,300 volunteer hours in just four days.
We talk a great deal about sprawl, about pollution. Sometimes we forget that for many Americans parks and playgrounds are the nation's main open spaces, and our omission is showing. With civilization hemming us in, parks often are our only escape.
Parks and playgrounds are especially important for children. Glendening recognized that by offering challenge grants to community organizations to build Boundless Playgrounds so handicapped children can play.
Play is children's work; it is how they learn to adapt themselves to the world. Playgrounds offer the training grounds where the tools of imagination, invention and discovery are honed.
For Glendening, devoting state money to parks during his final years in office can round out an enviable legacy of preservation. More than any previous Maryland governor, Glendening has grasped the urgency of saving land from development. The Greenprint program in his budget would accomplish even more, setting aside $35 million for purchasing forests and farms threatened with destruction. We were pleased that efforts to slash that fund failed in the General Assembly last week.
Perhaps the General Assembly needs to visit Calvert Cliffs playground - where children laugh, giggle, smile and enjoy Captain John Smith's Cabin, Cove Point Lighthouse Jr., the great pirate ship and Chessie. Then follow the lead of the people - and the governor - in understanding the critical need both to preserve land and to maintain the land already devoted to parks and playgrounds.