Some youth coaches say Prince George's County's parks could have better sports recreation if the county had a control over its own programs.
A state-created agency oversees the county's recreation, unlike anywhere else in Maryland. Decades ago, recreation in Prince George's County was handed to Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning to avoid cuts in programming, making it the only county in Maryland without local control of recreation that taxpayers fund.
“We have the worst fields in the state of Maryland, period, point blank, in Prince George’s County,” a soccer coach said.
Coaches and mentors say they're concerned about the future athletes and youth of Prince George's County.
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“The sports is the hook,” said Ashley Montgomery of Mentoring Through Athletics. “Really what we're doing, the work that we’re doing, is the mental. We do tutoring; we do wraparound services.”
People who want an authority to study options for managing recreation locally have a video campaign and Maryland House bill sponsored by Del. Nick Charles, D-Prince George’s County.
“Ninety million dollars is collected for recreational tax through Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning, and I want to make sure that we use that money to truly focus on providing opportunities for kids,” he said.
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Not everyone supports the proposal. Opponents have a website explaining why they think it's a bad idea.
Marcus Thomas, commissioner of the Forestville boys and girls football program is fighting to support the legislation.
“We've been at the same field location since I was playing in 1991 and never had a renovation done, never had holes filled by the county,” he said. “This is all stuff we do as volunteers.”
“We don't want our coaches to have to fix the fields themselves, so that we concede,” said Elizabeth Hewlett, chair of Prince George's County Planning Board of Maryland-National Park and Planning.
She said they are working to improve field conditions but sports aren't all the parks offer. She opposes the bill.
“I think this bill needs to be held,” she said. “I would prefer so much more dialogue. You know, we applaud youth sports, and there’s so much more that parks and recreation does than youth sports. I mean, we encompass performing arts, the festivals, something for everyone.”
Hewlett said they've hired turf management experts to update and maintain the playing fields.
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks supports the legislation, which heads to a House committee for a hearing Tuesday.
Prince George's County has six national gold medals for excellence in managing its parks and recreation.