Tidewater Trader Publisher and 30 Nearby Residents Oppose Ajax Basketball Court and Recreation Commission Process

In a letter preempting the March 15 Council Meeting, Tidewater Trader Publisher Carla Johnson claimed that the approval process for redevelopment of the Ajax Basketball court has been rushed forward by the Chestertown Recreation Commission without recognizing the concerns of nearby residents and businesses.

“The Recreation Commission has hastily approved an ill-conceived ‘plan’ and for some unknown reason is rushing to the Mayor and Council with a recommendation while myself and others struggled over the past 3-4 months to participate in Commission meetings remotely, and without the benefit of draft plans to review, and in the face of bullying by members with minds made up,” Johnson wrote in her March 12 letter to the Mayor and Council.

She said she and nearby residents and businesses have supported redevelopment of the park — but without a full size basketball court.

“When I say “we” or “our” I am referring to the thirty plus individuals (adjacent and nearby property owners, residents, business owners and employees, and neighbors) who signed a petition in September 2020 in support of maintaining and improving the pocket park and playground and opposed to an intensification of use (i.e., a full-sized basketball court with lights and a covered pavilion) in such a confined area,” Johnson wrote.

She said the group of residents and businesses are content with the current layout of park but are concerned about noise and whether redevelopment of AJAX is in keeping with the historic district.

“Property owners, businesses, and residents adjacent to and nearby the pocket park are happy with the current configuration as a dawn to dusk playground geared towards families, supervised children, and users of the Gilchrest Rail Trail, inclusive of the existing basketball rim and half court, in terms of scale and compatibility with the neighborhood,” she wrote to the Recreation Commission in December. “The existing park layout and amenities need not be enlarged as much as there is room for improvements in terms of playground equipment quality and safety and overall aesthetics. Our preference is for nicer and safer, not bigger and louder.”

While Johnson lamented about noise and safety she also said Ajax could be under utilized due to declining school enrollment and a large inventory of basketball courts in the Chestertown.

“Given the declining school enrollment trend in Kent County and corresponding demographic information who is expected to utilize a new regulation-sized basketball court at this location,” she asked. “With several and some relatively new full basketful courts already in Chestertown (Carpenter Park at Washington Park circa Sept. 2020; Gateway Park circa May 2016; Chestertown Middle School; Washington College) to the average observer there appears an abundance of full basketball courts, and a new YMCA that will include basketball courts is under construction in Town.”

She also condemned comments from Commission member Jim Bogden, who prior to a meeting of the commission in January claimed anyone objecting to the redevelopment plan for Ajax “is a racist.”

“Commission member Jim Bogden, who has apparently been working in tandem with Mr. Rhodes for some time drawing up plans as the ‘tanning committee,’ pronounced to the diverse group in attendance that anyone opposed to a basketball court is a racist,” she wrote. “Such a superficial and insulting remark by a Commission member representing the Town has a chilling effect on public participation and mocks the spirit of ”Chestertown Unites Against Racism.”

See Johnson’s full letter with exhibits to the Mayor and Council here.

Related Story:

Off-Mic Conversation Reveals Mayor and Zoning Administrator’s View of Ajax Basketball Court Development

Feature Image: Dimitri Goderdzishvili



  1. Isn’t the children’s playground being moved to Wilmer Park or did I miss decision to change that ?

  2. Thank you, Carla! I was unaware of this. I heard rumors of the park getting upgrades but not losing our public parking lot. As a Cannon Street business owner (Physically Fitch) with no parking, we rely on street parking and that lot. With the new restaurant (Watershed) soon to be finished, bars, and other new businesses I believe street parking will be harder and harder to find. All these new businesses are great but without proper parking our businesses will suffer. Main Street and DCA have and continue to excel at attracting tourism, so the town’s providing of sufficient parking is needed to aid their efforts to fruition. Small businesses are still recovering from the pandemic, so removing the municipal parking will do nothing to help our local economy.

  3. Perhaps the declining enrollment in schools is due to the fact that whenever anyone tries to make something for kids in Chestertown, it gets shot down by a bunch of “nearby property owners” who are worried about “noise” and “safety” but also apparently “underutilization,” and don’t seem to care much about community-building or attracting younger residents who might enjoy a place not dedicated to servicing our retirees. If it’s underutilized, then there will be no noise or safety issues; if it’s noisy, then it will be well-utilized. It seems that either way kids lose out and it’s also their fault whichever way it goes.

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