Watching the young people in his neighborhood mill around the streets bothered Marlboro Meadows resident J.R. Ashton. The kids were cultivating a bad rap around his community, with petty vandalism, thefts and break-ins attributed to the listless youth.
With one community park serving the community of more than 1,300 homes and townhouses, Ashton realized the need for a positive outlet to get children off of the streets.
"There's a lot of whining about what the kids are doing," Ashton said. "People get mad at the kids, but there is nothing for them to do."
So two months ago Ashton kicked off a recreation program aimed at drawing school-aged children outside and bringing the community together. Some weekends the turn out has been strong, while other times few residents show. Regardless, at 4 p.m. every Sunday Ashton sets up the sports equipment he purchased through donations from local businesses and grills hotdogs and hamburgers.
"[Ashton's] trying to give the neighborhood something to help these kids achieve their goals," Tim Wimbush, a resident of the neighborhood for 20 years said. Wimbush, who recently moved away, returned for the day June 5. "He's out here and wants to be there for the kids."
Without access to public transportation the youth in the Upper Marlboro community are stuck sharing inadequate recreation facilities, according to Wimbush.
As Marlboro Meadows was built out in three sections, recreation wasn't taken into consideration during expansion, Ashton said. Residents said they have been waiting on a pool promised by the developer since the 1970s.
"They didn't build recreation along with the community," Wimbush said.
The park, owned and maintained by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), has some playground equipment and a swing set. Yet Ashton said the baseball diamond and football field sit idle while teenagers play pick-up games on the basketball court.
"The football posts were taken down and nobody is playing baseball," Wimbush said. "And that one basketball court is enough for 30 or 40 houses--not 1,300."
Ashton envisions the large open fields in the park being used for overnight summer camping trips for neighborhood kids, but has limited funds to purchase gear.
The Marlboro Meadows Civic Association Development Corporation, the neighborhoods homeowners group, operates on voluntary community dues. So Ashton said some funding has had to come from outside donations.
So he is cultivating volunteers who offer free shows or classes, including a Bowie State dance major that may start a series of dance lessons and the Rough Riders equestrian association to give free horseback rides. Last Sunday a local DJ was scheduled to perform, but Ashton also hopes to hold rap battles.
"Everything costs money these days," Ashton said. "But this is free."
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