Forest Park could receive some new additions. But some say those additions could attract crime.
The park is an active person's paradise offering walking and biking trails, golf courses, tennis courts, soccer fields, baseball and softball diamonds an archery range and more. But 23rd Ward Alderman Joe Vaccaro says something's missing: basketball courts.
Friday morning Vacarro proposed Board Bill 35 that, if passed, would create well-lit basketball courts somewhere in Forest Park.
Vacarro says of the more than 100 parks in the city, only 25 offer basketball. He believes basketball courts give inner-city children an alternative to trouble, crime and possible gang life.
But, Vacarro says opposition is being drawn along racial lines.
“I'm being told you're going to stretch police resources. you're bringing groups into the park that are going to cause problems,” said the Alderman.
Wendell Covington, President and CEO of Mathews-Dickey Boys’ and Girls’ Club says the addition of basketball courts in Forest Park could be a game-changer for inner-city youth.
“I grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois and playing basketball all day during the summer kept me out of trouble and more importantly helped me focus on some things like being a productive citizen and going to college,” said Covington.
“I think there are some assumptions associated with people who play basketball. And when you think of inner-city a lot of people assume that there will be crime or some negative or insidious behaviors. I think quite the opposite. I think what happens with criminal behavior in St. Louis is there are idle times and idle minds.”.
If the bill passes the city's parks department will have a lot of input on the plan. The department's director released a statement via email Friday afternoon that reads:
“The Forest Park Master Plan was approved after extensive public participation and community engagement. Although outdoor basketball courts were not envisioned in the Master Plan, the plan calls for a balance of diverse open space, cultural and recreational needs and activities. Any proposed amenity/project is reviewed to determine its impact on all other existing systems in the park. This type of process lends itself to informed decision-making with respect to the spirit of the Master Plan. In addition, any proposed capital project for Forest Park must go through a deliberate 9 step design/construction process with the Forest Park Advisory Board.”