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The Latest Recreation Report May Dash Hopes of a Community Center in North College Park

Tomorrow, the College Park City Council is expected to vote on a report that may kill the hope of many north College Park residents to have a multigenerational community center close to their homes.

The City secured the services of a consultant firm, GreenPlay LLC to run this study to gather community feedback on City’s facilities, trails, amenities, programs, future planning, communication, and more.

Though the GreenPlay survey found “a community’s desire for a new community center”, it concluded, however, “there is a difference between desire and actual need”

The concluding statement was added to the version of the report, which you can find here (page # 57).  The language was not included in the version that the Mayor and Council discussed at last week’s Council worksession.

A Conclusion based on an Insufficient, Noncomprehensive Study

The GreenPlay study looked into the use of the College Park Community Center at Lakeland by survey respondents and found that a majority of the responders do not use the center. GreenPlay is suggesting better communication of programs at the center to address the recreational need.

Unfortunately, the survey did not look into the comprehensive usage data of the College Park Community Center. We’ve been told that, during pre-COVID time, depending on the time of the day, the facility could be found very full, so much so that people are often turned away.

According to the staff at the College Park Community Center,  the center is very busy most days. This center runs programs that are inclusive of everything from childcare to recreation. Last year in addition to programmed operations the center accommodated over 350 hours of requests via the Community Connect portal. That is for outside groups and in addition to our class programs, childcare programs, recreational drop-ins for fitness, and the gymnasium. The center hosts programs for the recreation council, University of Maryland and various other entities. According to the staff, Out of 45 community centers, it is safe to say the center is in the top 10 percent and perhaps higher.

The Lakeland facility is also open to residents of all of Prince George’s County, and not only College Park residents. Thus, just because the GreenPlay survey responders may not typically use the facility, it doesn’t mean the facility is not used to its full extent by others.

The GreenPlay study also did not explore fully the reasons why residents from each neighborhood do not attend the nearby recreation/community centers more frequently. One common reason we often hear from residents for not attending programs CP Community Center is the inconveniences and the time to travel to the center, especially during rush hours, when Route 1 becomes a slow-moving parking lot. There are other reasons such as lack of programs at the CP Center for not attending. This was reflected in a survey we took in 2018 (also below). The survey also found that only 17% identified “Communication” (“Unaware”) as the reason for not attending.

 

North College Park – A Hub of a Multi-Generational Community
District-housing north-SouthThe GreenPlay report appears to assume that the entire City is a homogeneous multi-generational community – which is far from true.

College Park is proud of having neighborhoods, each having unique traits. For example, the old town is known to have beautiful historic homes, we take pride in the Lakeland community for its historic African American roots.

The North College Park neighborhood is known to have the highest concentration of residents in each age group, from toddlers to seniors.

Based on the data from the Maryland National Park and Planning’s GIS, there is a significant difference between the locations of single-family homes in different parts of the City (please see above). Almost half of the City’s single-family homes are located in District 1. Also, north College Park has more than two-thirds of the City’s single-family homes.

A majority of our children, youth, parents, and seniors most likely live in these single-family homes.

Accessibility and the convenience to get to the new facilities are very important, thus, parents with toddlers, young children, and seniors will most likely want to have the expanded services close to their homes.

A comprehensive study on a new recreation center should include these important factors.

Likely to Jeopardize Upcoming M-NCPPC Study on North College Park Community Center
For the past several years, the City Council has been asking the M-NCPPC to conduct a feasibility study on a new multigenerational community center in College Park. Responding to north College Park residents’ strong interests, and thanks to the County Council, and the effort of County Councilman Tom Dernoga (representing north College Park), $250,000 has been added to the M-NCPPC’s budget last year to explore the feasibility of building an indoor facility in north College Park.

The recommendations presented in City’s recreation report are generally good ones. Some key recommendations include improving and enhancing facilities and amenities, adding new trails and pathways, and improving access to a multi-generational community center.

However, without backed by solid data and a comprehensive study, the report should not include languages that might negatively impact M-NCPPC’s upcoming study to establish the north College Park Community Center.

If you wish to comment on the recreation report, please send them to the  Mayor and Council at cpmc@collegeparkmd.gov . Thank you!

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