My name is Frank Rhodes and I am a resident of Chestertown and have a local business. Both of my children started their first year at Kent County High School in the fall of 2019 and are active in sports. My son has been playing competitive basketball for three years and was accepted on the KCHS JV team as well as two years of travel AAU Boys Basketball. All that being said, I have had the opportunity to meet many great basketball players and coaches as well as their families in Kent and many of the surrounding counties.
So last Thursday I got the mail and usually look at the KCN in the evening but below the crease saw “will not have a basketball court.” I read the article several times and said to myself, what a sad day for Chestertown. Now I am sure there are some people who do not know much about local hoops. Actually, before I became involved I probably would not have either. Maybe I am an anomaly, but my son and his friends often play at Ajax pocket park. He also plays at Gateway Park, Washington Park. The Middle School, The Recreational Center, Christian Academy, Washington College, various school venues, and home courts. What I am saying is that this sport is a passion for many people. I have been to most of the high schools on the shore for tournaments and unless you attend it is hard to understand the depth of enthusiasm.
The point I want to make is that the Ajax court needs to stay and be enlarged to a full-court as it originally was. One might say, well you just mentioned all of the other venues for hoops in town. That is true, but this particular court has a significant historical provenance. Many of the young players that I know had parents that grew up and played there also. I saw the recorded town hall meeting on Ajax pocket park and the KCN July 9th, 2020 article which tells much of the story. Why was this discussion not on the town agenda and why is it a last-minute addition without public interaction for transparency? Maybe, because there is a grant deadline for this project which could be postponed until next year. There is plenty of time for public discussion regarding a playground at Wilmer Park.
I understand that the town needs a playground. I remember helping build the Garnett Playground years ago out of salt-treated lumber and today coated metal is recommended. Anyway, I heard last year that a playground was to be built at Wilmer Park. My thoughts were, what a great idea since there is so much space and plenty of parking. I neglected to follow the project. Now, without any public discussion, the Mayor and Council plan to remove the Ajax court. Apparently the residents at Wilmer Park objected to a playground. I remember years ago when Mayor Cerino was a member of the planning commission and we had a group fighting to save the marina. Yes, it was going to be expensive and controversial but most of the historical towns on the Eastern Shore had a marina and what would future generations say if the current management just let it go. Wilmer Park is the obvious location for a playground and Ajax court has to stay. The older generation is going to pass along and I would think Chestertown wants younger families to move in. We have an opportunity to save Ajax court and fight the battle for a playground in Wilmer Park. That was the original location the town wanted anyway.
I have one more comment. The Sultana Foundation just acquired the property across from Ajax pocket park. My wife and I were invited to tour the property and visualize the plans for a beautiful walking trail. My question is, would a basketball court be a controversial look across from this venue?
Many thanks for your time and courtesies.
Frank B. Rhodes