We are writing to inform you that more than a majority of the 123 playgrounds in the District of Columbia are safe places for children to play. Thus, we take exception to Anne Chase's article of Sept. 8 in the District Weekly that playgrounds in this city suffer from worn equipment, lagging maintenance and vandalism. While we acknowledge that some of our play areas are in need of repairs and renovation, we take pride in the fact that the greater number are providing wholesome and healthful activity for thousands and thousands of children and adults seven days a week.
To read Ms. Chase's article, one would get the impression that the city has abandoned its responsibility to quality recreation. This is far from the truth. Our approach is to use our resources to provide meaningful recreational experiences for citizens with minimal reduction in the capacity of facilities. We believe we are meeting this objective.
Moreover, the article failed to mention any of the enriching programs that we sponsor at all of our playgrounds and centers, including the two areas that the reporter visited. As for example, the Department of Recreation conducts one of the largest summer camping programs for young people in the city. This year alone, some 510 boys and 520 girls took part in our residential camping program at Scotland, Maryland, where trained counselors provided a variety of activities, including picnicking, swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, and nature study. Another example is our day-care programs that provide well-rounded activities for minor children of working parents from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, year-round, including nutritional meals. In addition to this service, we daily receive hundreds of children in our before- and after-school care program at 13 city locations. Here again, working parents who otherwise would have no alternative bring their school-aged children to these centers to await the beginning of the school day. After school, many of these same children return to us to wait until their parents' work day has ended.
The article mentioned two areas in particular: the playground at Benning-Stoddert Recreation Center on East Capitol Street, and the New York Avenue Playground at First Street NW. Both of these are among areas that have been targeted for immediate attention. Work is in progress; and the exteriors of Benning-Stoddert Center and at New York Avenue have been freshly painted, along with other improvements at both sites. In spite of the physical conditions mentioned in the article, an ongoing recreation program is in effect at both sites.
Unquestionably, all of our facilities and playgrounds are open fully to the public; and more frequently than we would like, we are confronted with vandalism and other undesirable situations. Through positive outreach programs, lectures, and community relations efforts that generate mutual understanding and respect, we are curbing some of the destruction to property. We also recognize that this is not a problem common only to our city, but is one that confronts neighboring recreation departments as well.
Nevertheless, as we continue our efforts to provide valuable recreation programs for the citizens of Washington, we hope the community will accept the reality that a recession brings, and that it also will recognize that we are striving to maintain the overall stability and quality of our recreational services. This is our greatest challenge.