As time and housing patterns have changed, with subdivisions providing big yards and kids playing in streets near-empty of any traffic, the need for small parks in newer neighborhoods has disappeared. They have been replaced with areawide “recreational complexes” covering acres and with arrays of sporting fields that, in the “olden days,” could have passed for places to play professional baseball.
Yet most of these older, more densely-populated neighborhoods remain ... and so do the parks. Instead of being occupied by white mill workers, they are now often called home by minorities and, for them, those postage-stamp parks remain as important as ever.
UNFORTUNATELY, over the years these parks have sometimes been neglected, sometimes fallen into decay as they were taken over by “bad elements” in need of a place to hang out.
The Rome City Commission recently discussed returning those small parks to their former importance by the simple expediency of providing them with restrooms and drinking fountains.
“We need restrooms and water fountains at the parks within the city,” said Commissioner Bill Collins. “It’s not fair that these kids don’t have a place to go to the restroom.” It’s also not likely that families will use such parks very much, or for very long, if there are no restrooms. As for the bad elements, as neighbors will attest, they don’t hesitate to relieve themselves on the shrubbery.
So long as families don’t use these parks — the kind of families that will holler for the cops when they see inappropriate activity taking place — they will remain, by default, the turf of elements that any neighborhood would prefer to do without.
That’s what Collins meant when he said: “It’s a new day if it’s managed right.”
SOME OF THESE parks used to have working restrooms, City Manager John Bennett noted, which were vandalized and not replaced. Such small structures also can easily become places to “do” narcotics or make use of condoms.
This is, unfortunately, an aspect of this problem that must be dealt with at the same time as any restoration of plumbing. The parks, because they are gathering places, need an increased police patrol presence. At the same time, because of innovations such as cell phones, it has become a lot easier for families who want to protect these parks to play a role in making them safer and friendlier for children.
A nice park can really help the impression given by an entire neighborhood. That impression, in turn, can make property more valuable and life more pleasant.
The costs involved in repairing or installing restrooms cannot be all that great.
THIS IS DO-ABLE. Every child should have a place to safely throw a ball within walking distance of where they live. Rome has already been designated as the best small city in which to live in the Southeast. Let’s help make that true for everybody who lives here