Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Are you sitting down?

You might want to be before reading this:

Empty beer cans and used condoms found at a Dorsey’s Search playground in Columbia have prompted the Columbia Association to consider closing the facility at night.

The tot lot “has become a place for teens to drink and discard all sorts of paraphernalia,” stated a letter from Jeff Marcus, the chairman of Dorsey’s Search Village Board, to Chick Rhodehamel, director of open space for the Columbia Association. Rhodehamel oversees how playgrounds are used.
What!? Teenagers drinking at a tot lot!? Please tell me the police are doing something about this out of control debauchery.
The Howard County Police Department does not collect information about playgrounds if they do not have a formal address, Howard County Police Department spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said.

She would not comment on whether teens loiter at Columbia’s playgrounds
So, they're just standing around while our fine, upstanding youth waste countless nighttime hours huddled on playground equipment downing 30-packs of Beast and not bothering to take their trash with them. (Such nerve! Don't they know there are trash cans conveniently placed at each tot lot?)

Clearly, CA must do something.
If the association votes to close the tot lot after dark, signs would be posted at the facility, and police could prevent people from loitering there, said Tom O’Connor, the Dorsey’s Search representative for the Columbia Association Board of Directors.

This policy is in place in many other playgrounds in Columbia, O’Connor said.

The Village Board voted unanimously to request the association post a sign at the playground, stating it is closed after dark, said Jackie Felker, Dorsey’s Search Village Manager.
Ah, yes, a sign and possibly a police cruiser in the area as deterrents. That'll learn them.

Excuse me for being flippant about this, but having moved to Columbia in my early teen years, I thought teen gathering/boozing was the intended after-hours purpose of tot lots and, for that matter, pools.

Whoops. I think I said too much.

If I can be serious (that is, if I haven't already completely offended the fine residents of Dorsey's Search, including my in-laws, and most of the parents of county teenagers), doesn't the fact that tot lots serve as de facto hang-outs for teens speak to the tremendous dearth of other, more-acceptable activities for them? Doesn't the new Town Center seem like a logical place to address this need?

If only they could have made their frustration known in a formal, productive way, like at the charrette, instead of taking it out on the playgrounds.


Anonymous said...

teens? i drank cheap beer at tot lots well into my twenties.

Greg Pultorak said...

just saw your post mentioning Pinfold. I am pretty sure I saw your band a few times.. did someone named Matt Greyson partipate in that musical endevour?

Hayduke said...

Yup, Matt was the bass player for several years. Small world, eh?

Anonymous said...

Ummm, isn't it just a wee bit presumptuous to assume all trash left at tot lots is due to teens? I've seen many things, some described in your post, left along CA paths by folks beyond their teen years.

Unfortunately, part of the problem is cultural. I've seen some newer members of our community less respective of litter laws. Obviously, this doesn't apply to all new members of our community, nor all folks of any given culture, nor does it completely exempt some existing members of our community.

Also unfortunately, it's really a shame CA is so strapped for cash that they can't afford to adequately maintain the tot lots and paths, keeping them litter free. If only home prices and their CA assessments had gone up dramatically over the past few years, then maybe CA could have afforded the resources to keep these tot lots and paths well maintained.

Human nature being what it is, the most effective way to decrease the amount of litter left about is to make it easy to dispose of properly. Stiff littering fines are also used in some other countries quite effectively.

The new Town Center isn't a panacea for bored teens, just as the Mall and Oakland Mills Teen Center haven't been. Many teens, lacking access to affordable, safe, and convenient transportation, rightly pursue socializing in their neighborhoods vs. going five miles away to the center of town.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't it seem that closing tot lots at certain times is punishing everyone in an attempt to deter the offenders? If use of the tot lot is reduced to a fraction of the time its currently available, shouldn't properties served by that tot lot see a commensurate reduction in their CA lien obligations? Punish the guilty, not the innocent.