The director of the D.C. Department of Recreation last night said his agency plans to expand its programs to city youth to include such activities as Little League baseball, school dances and video arcade games to try to "reclaim" the city's young people.
William B. Johnson said the Recreation Department also will extend the hours of operation from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at some centers in each ward of the city. In addition, he said the city's recreation centers will offer major sports competition for teen-agers, teen counseling, year-round camping programs, teen retreats, discos and talent shows.
Johnson's comments came during a hearing on alternative recreational activities for District teen-agers before the D.C. Council's Committee on Public Services at Cardozo High School in Northwest Washington.
Council member Frank Smith Jr. (D-Ward 1), the committee chairman, told about 50 peopel that he had initiated the hearings last year after learning that District teens had few recreational options available.
"I believe it is a sad commentary for society to be motivated by the sight of a mother grieving on TV over the death of her son or daughter," Smith said. "Children, with so much promise, lost to drugs and violence."
Smith, who successfully led the effort to limit how late people under 18 can remain in go-go clubs and other public dance halls, said the city had to provide alternatives for the youth to combat "this growing crisis in the city."
Smith was joined at the meeting by council members Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8) and Jim Nathanson (D-Ward 3).
Johnson said the Recreation Department is creating new programs and expanding others for youth from the ages of 13 to 21. He said the officially sanctioned Little League baseball program will be the first ever sponsored by the agency.
Johnson did not say how much the programs would cost in the budget. Smith said last night's hearing would help the committee, which oversees the Recreation Department, justify budget requests of those agenices involved with teens.
Dr. John Womble, director of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for a Better D.C., said his organization plans to begin working on weekends with 100 youth between the ages of 12 and 16 in Mayfair Mansions and Paradise Manor apartment complexes in Northeast. He said they plan to provide such services as tutoring, counseling, recreational activities, and role models.
He warned that the city needs to take an active role in reaching the youth. "These kids are not coming to the recreation centers," Womble said. "You have to go get them . . . . They are not going to come to you."