Mayor Brandon M. Scott introduces a guaranteed income pilot program to help combat the economic crisis from COVID-19 and support young parents hit the hardest. (Photo by Larry Crayton on Unsplash)

By AFRO Staff

Mayor Brandon M. Scott has announced that Baltimore’s recreation infrastructure will get a $41

million boost in funding from provisions within the American Rescue Plan Act.

Scott announced the decision to invest millions into public recreation spaces with a host of City officials at his side, including City Administrator Christopher Shorter, Director of Baltimore City Recreation and Parks (BCRP) Reginald Moore and Chief Recovery Officer of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Programs Shamiah Kerney.

Funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will clear a path for BCRP to begin correcting a “systemic lack of investment in recreation,” according to a press release from the Office of the Mayor. 

The plan would pour $10 million into public pools and another $20 million into recreation centers. City residents would see an increase of $5 million towards local playgrounds, $1 million for bike trails and another $2 million for athletic fields and courts.

“The presence of all of these partners coming together in support of our communities signals a new spirit of collaboration and a unified vision around improving recreational opportunities across our city,” said Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “This is about showing our residents – especially our young people – that they matter. That we recognize their needs, are committed to their wellbeing, and are going to put our money where our mouth is by providing them with safe 21st-century spaces to exercise, develop life skills, and spend their time productively.”

Scott said he sees the investment into public recreation spaces as “another tool in the toolbox” when it comes to fixing issues with crime and public safety.

“I have seen firsthand the profound positive impact that recreation and parks have on our communities,” said the Park Heights native. “They can literally save lives. We are following through on our promises to provide Clean and Healthy Communities, Prioritize Youth, and Build Public Safety.”

Baltimore has faced multiple waves of recreation center closures in the last decade. Athletic fields have been worn thin from overuse and public swimming pools are dilapidated.

The announcement came with a reminder that public spaces for recreation are crucial in that they “play an invaluable role in the overall health and wellness of Baltimore City and its residents.”

Baltimore City Recreation and Parks Executive Director Reginald Moore said in the same statement that “Mayor Scott’s approach to the needed investment in recreation is comprehensive and touches all aspects of the system.”

“He has repeatedly spoken about how the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare our city’s challenges and inequities. It has also highlighted the critical need our recreation centers fill for our communities and youth,” added Moore. “The Mayor understands the importance of the Recreation and Parks department’s role in the City’s livability. Healthy greenspaces, safe and sound building infrastructure, and access to suitable recreation options all contribute to the growth of every Baltimore resident, but especially our young people.”

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) also weighed in on the move to invest in public spaces. 

“Improving public infrastructure – from our roads and bridges to our parks and recreation areas – is key to improving Marylanders’ quality of life. That’s why we fought to pass both the American Rescue Plan and infrastructure modernization bill – which are already delivering important investments to our communities,” said Van Hollen. “These federal funds for better public playgrounds, recreation centers, athletic fields, and other facilities will help bring people together in our City and provide more recreational opportunities for Baltimore residents of all ages and backgrounds.”

“I appreciate Mayor Scott’s commitment to leveraging these federal resources to build stronger communities and will continue working alongside him to bring federal investments to the City of Baltimore.”

The City’s recreation spaces were crucial during the first year of the pandemic when thousands of Baltimoreans flocked to the parks, trails and playgrounds that BCRP managed to keep open. Residents with school-aged children were able to receive emergency meals at recreation centers. 

Mayor Scott has announced a vision for recreation spaces that will cost roughly $120 million. This number includes the ARPA funds, financial commitments and a variety of other funders from both private and state sources. 

“The public health emergency compounded our need for safe, public recreation spaces,” said Shamiah Kerney, Chief Recovery Officer. “This investment will support the healthier, safer Baltimore that residents want and need. To increase the impact of this strategic ARPA investment, we are committed to pursuing critical partnerships with state, federal, and philanthropic organizations.”

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