Explore funding for youth sports park

To the editor:

The large parking areas behind the PEDA office in Pittsfield have remained unoccupied and unmaintained since General Electric's departure. Given the rise in violent crimes in the district and the high concentration of Pittsfield's at-risk youth population, one possible solution is more outside recreation facilities for the youth of the city to engage with. The abandoned parking lots seem like a perfect location for such a facility.

The facility does not have to be large and would have a number of positive impacts on the district. The site could house an outdoor soccer/sport court. Soccer is growing throughout the nation and Pittsfield has a tremendous opportunity to pursue a facility for its youth. Sports have a proven track record of reducing violence in inflicted areas by redirecting at-risk youth toward healthy, active lifestyles.

Such a recreational facility could become a reality through the pursuit of grant funding and partnering of local stakeholders. First, the commonwealth's municipal Park and Recreation grant funding is available via two opportunities: The Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC) grant program and The Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program.

The town of Lee is currently taking advantage of more than $13,000 through the PARC initiative, and North Adams $400,000. The city of Pittsfield would be eligible for $400,000 as well, given its population. These grant opportunities are a priority of the Baker/Polito administration and Pittsfield would be remiss if it did not take advantage of such opportunities.


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Second, U.S. Soccer has a Safe Places to Play grant initiative which Pittsfield could also take advantage of. The initiative provides supplemental funding for sport courts, turf surfaces, and lighting.

Smaller projects such as the proposed recreational facility can have an esthetic impact on an area such as the Tyler Street district. Small innovative projects can have a large-scale impact on the type of investors sought by PEDA and needed for The William Stanley Business Park.

Sports can have positive results on reducing violent crime in areas such as the Tyler Street district. Such a site can be a place for the community to come together, day and night. Positive options such as recreation can influence community members especially youth to make the right decisions rather than alternatives such as the gang activity that is plaguing the city.

Robert B. Ireland, Pittsfield The writer is a returned Peace Corps volunteer, TEFL/Community Development, Ukraine, 2010-12.