Parks closures not an easy issue for anyone

A couple of weeks ago, members of the Weirton Board of Parks and Recreation were provided with a recommended list of closures for some of the city’s recreational sites.

Of the more than a dozen locations in Weirton, five have been targeted by the board, with officials citing a lack of use as the most prevalent reason.

Those sites included a half basketball court on Beverly Avenue, a green space on Plum Street, a basketball court on Sharp Street and a small playground on Brookline Street.

While the Oakland Avenue field will not necessarily be closed, the board is opting to no longer maintain it. The field, officials say, is used specifically by the Little Steelers football organization, which maintains it during its season.

It really shouldn’t have been much of a surprise it happened. Members of the board raised the issue back in May as they continue to look for ways to provide recreational services to the community while staying within the budget they have available.

This also wasn’t the first time the idea of closing — or no longer maintaining — recreational sites in the city has been brought up. It’s a topic raised at least every couple of years in Weirton, and, for that matter, many other communities in the area.

I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision to make. Knowing the board members and the parks staff, these are individuals who care about the recreation of Weirton, and I believe if they felt there had been any other option, they would have taken it.

That doesn’t make it any easier to hear, and we’ve received a few comments on social media about the decision. Most of those comments express concern for the children of Weirton, noting the thought that if parks and playgrounds are closed it takes away opportunities for the kids to get together and have fun. Some feel that if the kids don’t have these sites available to them, it increases the chances of the youth getting into trouble.

If what board members are saying is true, though, the ones targeted for closure weren’t being used by anyone, let alone our youth. The one exception mentioned was the Brookline Street playground, which apparently isn’t being used by children. Officials say they occasionally see teenagers at the tot lot, and often find items which shouldn’t be there. While they wouldn’t go into specifics on those items, it wouldn’t take much imagination to figure out what they mean.

That’s really what it came down to. It was more than just a matter of keeping the grass cut.

Lack of use is most often the reason cited when a playground is closed. In Weirton, many of these little neighborhood parks were installed when the population was higher. The idea was to provide a playground in as many neighborhoods as possible for the youth of those areas. This way, they would maybe have to walk a couple of blocks to gather with their friends on a summer day or perhaps for an hour after school.

Times change, though, and sometimes kids have no interest in something as simple as swinging or going down a slide. Those that do quite possibly aren’t allowed without adult supervision, which might not always be an option.

Fortunately, the actions will not leave the city without any recreational locations.

The city’s two largest parks — Starvaggi Memorial and Marland Heights — will still be available, as will several smaller playgrounds. Those include the Aaron Davies Memorial Playground on Murphy Avenue, the Bennett Drive Playground, the Dunbar Center Playground on Weir Avenue, the Steve Dorich Memorial Playground on June Street and the Woodlawn Estates Playground on Union Street.

That may be little comfort to some in our community, but at least we still have something.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)