Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Identifying recreation needs

Letter to the editor, Valley News Dispatch, Jan. 2, 2006, p. A6The letter to the editor in Monday's Valley News Dispatch from Jim Gray of Costa Mesa, California raises an interesting point about identifying the recreation needs of a community:

"You only have to look around to see all the empty ball fields and look down the street to see the kids riding their skateboards all over the place."

He points out that skateboarding has surpassed Little League in popularity.

At the last Tarentum Council meeting part of the discussion of the proposed skateboard park involved various proposals either to build more ball fields or to convert an existing ball field to a skatepark. I don't see the need for competition between the two forms of recreation.

I have my own childhood memories of Little League baseball. I remember the day when I was a timid kid who held a bat at home plate and was probably making his decisions about whether to swing at each pitch not on whether the ball was in the strike zone but on whether it was coming slow enough for me to feel confident that I could hit it. And I remember the day when I did swing and hit the ball and then got as far as third base; of course, I got that far not because of the tremendous force and sharp-eyed accuracy with which my bat connected with the ball, but far more because of the lack of skill of the team fielding my feeble hit.

Little League is a good experience for kids to learn that they can apply themselves, give it their best shot, and then accomplish something by doing their best with whatever happens next. I hope that there are parents supporting local Little League programs and kids joining in local Little Leagues to have experiences like I had.

But today there are lots of kids wanting to skateboard, applying themselves to accomplish something in a different sport. The decision about what kind of recreational facility is put into Tarentum should not be made on the basis of "no" votes cast by people who won't play baseball or football or skate, or support young people in any of those activities. Rather, the community should pay attention to the evidence that we already have about the recreational activities in which young people do want to participate. Last summer I saw far more young people in Tarentum riding or carrying their skateboards than I saw in baseball uniforms or carrying baseball equipment.

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